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PR 

2218 

.A4 

1906 

SMC 



THE SACRED DRAMAS OF 
GEORGE BUCHANAN 



THE SACRED DRAMAS OF 
GEORGE BUCHANAN 

{Translates into Bnglisb iDersc 



BY 

ARCHIBALD BROWN 

Minister of the Parish of Legerwood 



EDINBURGH: JAMES THIN 

LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, & CO., LTD. 
1906 




JUN 5 1958 



PREFACE 

IN making this translation I have had before me only 
two editions of the Latin text, viz., that of 1615 
(Andro Hart, Edinburgh), and that of 1687 (H. 
Wetstein, Amsterdam). Both give the bare text without 
note or comment; and, apart from typographical errors, 
they are in complete accord. 

Two metrical translations of these Dramas are known 
to me to have appeared ; one of them in 1870 (Moodie 
Miller, Edinburgh), and the other a few years ago 
(Gardner, Paisley). Of the latter I cannot speak, never 
having seen it, and having indeed avoided seeing it, 
my own translation being by that time practically 
complete. 

The earlier version is a careful and creditable piece 
of work ; but as a poetic rendering it suffers from its 
rigid literalism. The translator has shown great self- 
restraint in adhering resolutely and at all costs to his 
text, and in firmly refusing to round off a thought, or 
place it in a setting somewhat more in unison with the 
genius or idiom of the English tongue. 

It humbly seems to me that literalism carried so far 



viii SACRED DRAMAS 

as this defeats its own purpose, and that the resultant 
version, instead of being rigorously faithful, may some- 
times be the very reverse. Take, e.g., the adjuration 
per Deum ! (meaning, in God's name /) ; represent it, 
bluntly and tout court, by the two corresponding English 
words ; and what have you ? You have a rendering true 
to the letter, false to the sense ; and what is in your 
text a solemn adjuration becomes in your hands a profane 
expletive. The instance is not imaginary; but it is 
probably an extreme one, and may be singular of its 
kind. The moral is, that a translator requires to move 
with reasonable freedom, and is likely to do greater 
justice both to his author and to himself by not tying 
himself too tightly to the literal word. 

To give word for word, or phrase for phrase, or line 
for line, has not been my aim. What I have honestly 
tried to do is to give the force and tone and spirit of 
the original, without departing from the written text 
more than might allowably be done. If I may venture 
so to speak, I have teased out Buchanan's web, and 
woven up the wool again as best I could. The material 
is essentially his ; the texture, the colouring, and the 
effect, so far as I could reproduce them, are his also. 

To what extent I have succeeded or failed in this 
attempt, I must leave to others to decide. No one can 
be more sensible than I am of its imperfections failures 
to hit off the precise shades of meaning failures, if not 
to compress, at least not to aggravate the undeniable 
longueurs that are but too frequent in the speeches 



PREFACE ix 

failures, in the Choral Odes, to repress the occasional 
indulgence in an archaic word or in words which if not 
obsolete are obsolescent. For many of these faults and 
the list might no doubt be enlarged there is, I fear, 
no defence ; but let me say, at least of some of them : 

Sunt delicta tamen quibus ignovisse velimus : 

Nam neque chorda sonum reddit quern vult manus et mens, 

Poscentique gravem persaepe remittit acutum, 

Nee semper feriet quodcumque minabitur arcus. 

The neglect into which Buchanan has fallen among 
his countrymen of the present day Quatercentenary 
Celebrations notwithstanding is surprising ; but it is 
beyond dispute. A richly endowed man of genius, one 
of the foremost scholars and admittedly the greatest poet 
of his time, his hold upon the affection and the admiration 
of his country might have been supposed to be assured. 
But it has not been so. A dark eclipse rests upon his 
name ; so all but total, one cannot think of it without 
feeling that a great injustice has been done. Worse 
fate could hardly have befallen him, unless it be the 
grotesque distortion of him long current among the 
peasantry of his own country, with whom he passed 
familiarly for a rough jester and Court Fool. 

This shameful caricature of him probably exists no 
longer; and one may hope with some degree of con- 
fidence that the eclipse which rests upon him, now 
perhaps at its darkest, will to a large extent pass away 
and permit the real lustre of his name to shine out 
again. 



x SACRED DRAMAS 

I have no thought that this little book will contribute 
in any appreciable degree to that result ; but, in sending 
it forth, I have at least the hope that those into whose 
hands it may chance to come will not think less of 
Buchanan after they have read it than they did before. 

A. B. 

EDINBURGH, 
JUM 1906. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



JEPHTHAH ; OR, THE Vow .... 1 

THE BAPTIST ; OR, CALUMNY . ' . . 89 



JEPHTHAH 

OR 

THE VOW 



DRAMATIS PERSONS 

AN ANGEL. Prologue. 
STORGE, the Mother. 
IPHIS, the Daughter. 
Chorus of Native Maidens. 
JEPHTHAH, the Commander, 
SYMMACHUS, a Friend. 
A Priest. 
A Messenger. 



JEPHTHAH, OR, THE VOW 



PROLOGUE 
Spoken by an ANGEL 

FROM heaven, the throne of the Eternal King, 

To earth and to the homes of Israel 

I come, a minister of God ; and here 

I fold my wings upon the sacred soil 

Promised of old to Abraham and his seed 

A soil predestined as the seat of power 

And wide dominion over Gentile lands, 

So had the chosen race inviolate kept 

The sacred league. But now for some sad years 

This soil has shuddering felt the hostile tramp 

Of Ammonite invasion, and endured 

All sorrows, miseries, and cruelties 

The victor may inflict, the vanquished fear. 

Subdued and broken by calamity, 

The race rebellious have but now begun 

To reverence anew their fathers' God 

Have come, by taking thought, to recognize, 

And, recognized, to ridicule and scorn 

As lying mockeries of Deity 

The rites of idol-worship gross and vile. 



4 SACRED DRAMAS 

Though late and wandering long, yet once again 

They have returned to God. But measure due 

The mind of man knows never to observe ; 

Success elates it ; and the more profuse 

The bounty of God has been of its rich gifts 

The deeper the security that wraps 

In blinding folds the eyelids of the soul ; 

While pride and arrogance, the evil birth 

Of vain imaginings, incite to acts 

That are unwise and hurtful. As a steed 

Refractory and savage, if it feel 

A moment slackened the controlling hand, 

Plunges and swerves, resisting violently 

Its rider's will, nor but with difficulty 

Subdued by biting curb and blood-stained spur 

Resumes its duty and obeys the rein : 

Even so this people, froward and stiffnecked, 

To evil ever prone, if but a while 

The sounding scourge has rested, straightway choose 

New gods, and give themselves to alien rites 

And follow strange idolatries. And thus 

The Father of all, in his benignity, 

Breaks their proud spirit, risen to such offence 

By unrestraint, sending them war or dearth, 

Or deadly pestilence to taint the air; 

And tames their wild revolting. And again, 

Lest trust in him should perish utterly, 

Crushed out by troubles in succession long, 

He sends them prophets, warlike leaders sends, 



JEPHTHAH 

Deliverers and restorers, to regain 

Lost Truth and Freedom ; to strike off the chains 

Of galling servitude, and bring them back 

To know and serve the Lord in hallowed rites 

As in the pristine days. Thus at this time 

The invading Ammonite he has stirred up 

Against a people in revolt, who have 

Forsaken God's commands and sold themselves 

To godless vanities. Benignant still, 

And his just wrath restraining, he has sent 

A warrior to deliver them not found 

High placed in the proud roll of powerful chiefs; 

Not great from the great retinue that crowd 

His ample hall; nor stoutly confident 

In the strong, trusty arm of valiant sons : 

Not such, but, driven from his native fields, 

The banished Jephthah, born in infamy, ) 

Despised and hated by his father's sons, ' 

Cast out in scorn, recalled when peril rose. 

From such ignoble and unhonoured source 

Deliverance came, so ordered from on high 

That this proud race might nowise arrogate 

To their own arms a victory wrought of God ; 

And Ammon too might know his sword had shone 

Victorious hitherto in stricken fields, 

Not from the puissance that wielded it, 

But as the avenging weapon of God's wrath. 

Further, lest Jephthah, he too, should aspire 

To measure his own prowess by the event 



6 SACRED DRAMAS 

Of battle, and presume on his success, 

Full soon domestic sorrow shall bedim 

His shining victory. Triumph and woe shall meet, 

And woe shall triumph. Conqueror of Ammon, 

Low shall he lie, by one sad death o'erthrown ; 

And his proud heart in utter grief shall break. 

For, belting on his sword at setting forth 

On this high enterprise, he vowed a vow 

That if on battlefield he should prevail 

Against the treacherous foe, then whatsoe'er 

Should first come forth to meet him from his door 

To meet him, home returned with victory 

Should be the Lord's, and on his altar burn. 

Woe to thee, hapless Jephthah ! woe to thee ! 
How great a load of misery impends ! 
What sorrows shall engulf thee ! And the hope 
Of joy so near approaching, how it fools 
Thy fond credulity ! Sole child of thine 
That guards for thee thy name transmissible, 
Thy daughter first shall meet thee, to acclaim 
With dance and sounding timbrel thy return 
Her warlike sire returned with victory ! 
O hapless maid, who but must weep for thee, 
Too dearly to repay with bleeding veins 
The joy of that proud moment snatched too soon ! 

And, lo, the mother sadly comes abroad, 
Whom hideous dreams have scared the whole night 

long 
With scenes of horror; and beside her comes 



JEPHTHAH 

Her daughter, both betraying in their mien 
And gait and brooding silence the alarm 
And anxious trouble that perturb their breast. 



STORGE, IPHIS 

STO. Ah me ! my heart yet trembles in dismay, 
My mind is filled with horror, and my voice 
Obstructed labours for mere utterance, 
And scarce my lips can give to airy words 
Their evanescent form so full of dread 
The visions of the night have been to me, 
And fearful dreams have roused in me a sad 
And wakeful trouble, and my anxious heart 
Beats wearily beneath a weight of care. 
But, O thou Monarch of the shining sky, 
Supreme in power, avert on Israel's foes 
This omen of deep woe and deadly harm ; 
And unto me and to my child extend 
Thy grace and pity to my child, alas, 
Left the sole hope and comfort of her house, 
And prop of my decayed and waning years. 

I PH. Dear mother, bode with better cheer, and far 
Cast from thee thoughts that make thee sick at heart 
With causeless grief. Bethink thee; thou art sad 
And apprehensive, and thy troubled mind 



8 SACRED DRAMAS 

Mocks thee with idle fancies. O heed not 
An idle dream, but give to tranquil thoughts 
Re-entrance to thy bosom, and forget 
These airy phantoms. 

STO. Would I might forget! 

But oft as I remember, still afresh 
My fears start up in me; terror takes hold 
Upon me; and before mine eyes anew 
Passes the evil-boding dream I dreamed, 
And chills my heart with horror. Stillness soft 
And slumberous had already couched in rest 
All breathing things, and night had ushered in 
A voiceless silence, when methought I saw, 
A pack of wolves at utmost speed impelled, 
Maddened with hunger, every eye agleam, 
Their jaws wide-gaping flecked with blood and foam, 
Sweep savagely and with impetuous rush 
On a defenceless flock, no shepherd near. 
Alert, and instantly, a faithful dog, 
Intrepid guardian of the trembling fold, 
Rushed forth and drove the wolves away and then, 
Returning to the timid flock that still 
Panted in wildest terror, suddenly, 
From where I held it in my folded arms, 
A trembling lamb he snatched, and with his fangs 
Remorselessly its quivering flesh he tore. 

O radiant Sun ! O Moon that dost illume 
With wandering torch the sun-deserted sky ! 
O Stars that to the night-hushed world return, 



JEPHTHAH 9 

In glittering beauty trooping into view ! 
And thou, O Night, that on thy raven wings 
Bringst dreams to slumbering mortals, and dost know 
The anxious trouble thou hast brought to me ! 
Ye Powers of light and gloom that rule our lives ! 
If at this hour some dread disaster hang 
Impending o'er my daughter, and the voice 
Of Destiny thus warn me it is near 
O, ere it fall, bring down this wretched head, 
Down to the dark and silent realm of death, 
While yet my fear hath hope, and hope and fear 
Are in uncertain conflict, and my soul 
Knows not the dread reality to be. 

IPH. O mother, why wilt thou oppress thy mind 
Thus miserably with anguish and alarm, 
And by thy grief augment the grief of all, 
And reawaken bitter cares and fears? 
Rather, let all lamenting pass from thee, 
And proudly welcome him on his return, 
My father, who unless I be deceived 
By a vain augury I seem to hear 
Speeds on his way, enriched with noble spoils, 
And bringing home with him a warrior's fame, 
With endless honour to his race and land. 

STO. Not such has been the tenor of my life 
Since ever I have lived. Can I recall 
A time exempt from troubles and from tears ? 
Grief has been with me still since first I hung 
Upon my mother's breast. My youth beheld 



10 SACRED DRAMAS 

The subjugation of my native land, 
The fierce incursion of barbaric hordes, 
Tracked with a desolation; cattle driven 
From the fields they roamed in; the rich soil imtilled, 
Unsown, unharvested ; the homesteads burned ; 
The quiet hamlets smoking to the skies 
And sinking in red ruin ; while the blood 
Of our brave countrymen in vain was shed 
Though shed in torrents ; and the cruel sword 
Stayed not at them, but turned its ruffian edge 
On mothers and their babes, on young and old, 
In ruthless massacre. Part of my life, 
Tranquil and undisturbed, there hath not run. 
As ripple chases ripple on the pool, 
Or billowy surge that strikes the white sea-cliff 
By billowy surge is followed ; or as day, 
Each day that comes, by its succeeding day 
Is close pursued ; even so our newer ills 
Press hard upon the ills that have gone by : 
The story of our misery knows no pause ; 
Grief follows grief, and woe companions woe. 
My father and my brother both were slain 
i In the fierce strife of battle ; sorrow-crazed, 
My mother grew to age 'mid sighs and moans 
And funeral waitings for her slaughtered kin ; 
And at this hour my husband is afield 
In arms, and even now perchance his sword 
Gleams in the thickest danger. O my heart ! 
A worse thing yet than aught hath been looms dark 



JEPHTHAH 11 

Upon me, dark and dreadful. 

I PH. Dread it not ; 

'Tis dread, excess of dread, that gives their force 
To dark forebodings. 

STO. O that I might hear 

From Rumour's voice far-echoing o'er the land 
The tidings of my lord at last returned, 
His warrior ranks unbroken, and my hearth 
Unsrnitten by disaster. 

IPH. Far away 

Be doubting thoughts ; he shall return unharmed. 
The Power that moved him to those warlike toils 
Will safe restore him, crowned with honours new. 

CHORUS 

Jordan, whose waters clear 

Thy green-clad valley cheer, 
Disparting with their eddying swell 
The pasture fields of Israel, 
Rich pastures over hill and holm 
Where flocks and herds securely roam : 
And thou, O palmy grove, whose plumes 
Wave high on lightly tapered stem, 
Fair when the radiant sun illumes, 
Still fair 'mid winter's icy rheums, 
Around our loved Jerusalem 
Thy leafy pride unnipt, unshed, 
When myriad leaves lie strewn and dead : 



12 SACRED DRAMAS 

O shall the daystar's lucent ray 
Never lead in the longed-for day 
Day that would banish all my woes 
And bring my weary heart repose 
The day my gladdened eyes should see 
My subjugated country free ! 
Free as the Jordan's rushing stream, 
Or the high stars that o'er it gleam ! 

O land, for long ages beloved of the Lord, 
Thy sons art enthralled to a nation abhorred ; 
And we whom the plague-smitten Pharoah pursued 
With chariots and horsemen, but never subdued; 
Whom the sea waves, restraining their refluent wrath, 
'Gulfed not as we marched on our perilous path ; 
Whom the wilds of Arabia, by ploughshare unriven, 
And the giants of Anak, and towns walled to heaven, 
Dismayed not are now of an Ammonite horde, 
The distardly slaves who would blench at a sword. 

The deep disgrace, more than all other ill, 
Pierces the soul, that we should tamely bear 

A yoke so ignominious thus to fill, 

Without so much of manhood as to dare 
One blow our fallen freedom to repair. 

But, O Almighty Father, who at will 

Calmest the troubled sea, and when the sea 

Is tranquil dost its sounding waves upheave 
By wild cloud-whirling storms; and violently 



JEPHTHAH 13 

The rock-fast basements of the world dost cleave 
By shattering earthquakes, and restrainest leave, 
When so thou pleasest, from the orbs that be 
In the firmament, to speed on their career, 
And stayest them hear my soul's sad prayer, O hear I 

At last, at last 
Let our calamities suffice ! 

Thine anger past, 
Lift up thy pitying eyes 
Upon us, wearied and forlorn, 
And with our country's sorrows torn : 
O lift on thy afflicted race 
The light of thy benignant face, 

And in extremity 
Our helper be ! 

If our guilt have merited 
Vengeance so severe and dread ; 
If thus thou cast away from thee 
The people thou didst choose to be 
Thine own peculiar heritage 
So have our sins provoked thy rage 
O Father, if, as banished ones, 
Lost to thy grace, thy wayward sons 

Henceforth thou hold ; 
If, in anger unappeased, 
Thou pity not the woes thou seest. 



14 SACRED DRAMAS 

And wilt not hear the sad beseeching voice 
Of those who in thy love, by thine own choice, 

Were erst enrolled 
Let Syrian nor Ammonite 
Nor Egypt's vengeful ruler smite 
The stroke that shall thy judgment bring 
Upon us, justly suffering; 
Nor grant within thy hallowed pale 
That sword profane should e'er prevail : 
Rather arm thine own right hand 
With thy dreadful thunder-brand, 
And, flashing thy forked lightnings down, 
Enwrap each godless tower and town 

In fierce avenging flame ; 
Or let the earth, asunder cleft, 
Swallow adown its yawning rift 

All of our fateful name ; 
Or let the sea o'erleap its strand 
And overwhelm this heaven-doomed land, 
The rushing waves 
Our graves. 

Father, this prayer grant 
Lest the foe in his fierce pride 
Our fallen power deride 

And insolently vaunt; 
Lest Ammon's blinded race who kneel 
To idols formed with graver's steel 






JEPHTHAH 15 

Of voiceless timber soon decayed, 
And who with rites abhorred have laid 
Upon thine altars fire profane 
And victims impiously slain, 
Should to their idol-gods repair 
And, while thick incense loads the air, 
Render thanks with echoing shout 
For Hebrews slain in battle-rout. 
And number to their own renown 
Each driven dale and plundered town 
Ascribing to their own keen brand 
The work of thy avenging hand, 
Nor thinking that thine anger lent 
Force to their falchion's swift descent. 

Hark how their laughter rings ! 

Ha ! shall they boast such things ? 

And say with lips insane 

That when on battle-plain 
They meet the people of the Lord 
Foot to foot and sword to sword, 
The ranks of Israel must quail, 
Nor aid from Israel's God avail ! 

Ah wretched Ammon ! canst thou count the tears 
This mirth full soon will cause thee to let fall ? 

Soon in long moanings shall thy short-lived cheers 
Be drowned for ever, hushed beyond recall. 

The hour charged with thy doom doth swiftly speed 

Unless too much my soul presaging heed 



16 SACRED DRAMAS 

A hope that fools me even now is near, 
And hastening fast, the time, thy time of fear ; 
When the oppressor's turn shall be 
To feel the woes of slavery; 
And the hard yoke on others thrust 
Shall crush him, burdened, to the dust. 
Just God ! the righteous blood he shed 
Thou wilt not still unvisited 
Suffer thy sacred soil to stain ; 
Nor shall thine altars long remain 
Polluted by the rights abhorred 
Of aliens who know not the Lord. 
O may my life if but the last, 
The extremest, part on earth that's past 
Attain the period when once more 
Our fathers' God we may adore, 
Keeping each high solemnity 
As in the days when we were free ; 
And, mindful of the gracious hand 
That rescued our imperilled land, 
Round thine altar compassing 
A song to thee of triumph sing! 

But, lo, a runner speeding with swift stride ! 
Meseemeth, from the host : 'tis even so : 
I know him, and would fain his tidings know. 



JEPHTHAH 17 

MESSENGER, CHORUS 

MES. Daughters of ancient Abraham, all hail! 
Meet offspring of your hallowed ancestry ! 
Is yonder house our leader Jephthah's, pray ? 
Or have I strayed in my uncertainty ? 

CHO. It is the house, and this his daughter too. 
But if thy haste may tarry, say what cheer 
Thou bringest with thee from the ranks of war. 

MES. In sooth, my charge is to announce to all 
What thou dost long to hear. The foe is fled, 
Routed and chased ; victory, spoil, renown 
Are ours ; in camp all's well : that is the sum. 

CHO. How much in fewest words thou hast com- 
pressed ! 

But this, ere more, declare : Is thy report 
Of things which thou hast seen, or merely heard? 

MES. Things seen and done, true to the uttermost, 
Are what I now rehearse ; not idle tales 
Gathered from Rumour's lips for I was there, 
And bore my part upon the stricken field. 

CHO. How went the day ? Fain would we hear at 
large. 

MES. Gladly this joy I bid you share with me. 

'Twas early morn, and scarce had rosy Dawn 
Flushed with warm light the orient sky serene 
When Ammon, too impetuous to endure 
Chafing inaction, flooded wide the field 

With horse and men and swift war-chariots 

B 



18 SACRED DRAMAS 

That raged with hideous din athwart the plain. 
The swarming legions of their infantry, 
Glittering in brass and steel, stood wide displayed, 
By cohorts marshalled, while in front advanced 
Squadrons of chariots menacingly armed 
With scythe-like blades revolving with the wheels : 
The horse streamed out in troops on either wing. 
Meanwhile our host, holding the utmost heights 
That bound the open plain, no warlike pomp 
Nor forest of dense spears displayed ; and yet 
Stout-hearted were we, trusting in the aid 
Of the Omnipotent, and resolute 
To avenge our righteous quarrel. It was then 
Our general between the advancing lines 
Sent forth a herald, if perchance the war 
Might end all bloodless, and the antagonists 
Strike hands on just and equitable terms. 
This was his overture: That with the bounds 
Of ancient times fixed to their territories 
Each people should content them, and refrain 
From acts of injury and violence 
Done to the other; and whate'er had been 
By rapine taken should restore preferring 
Peace to grim war, things certain to unknown 
And doubtful issues. But the arrogant foe, 
Proudly reliant on his great array, 
Reviled the herald fiercely, and to threats 
Bitter and harsh added calumnious lies. 
He sought but to recover such the strain 



JEPHTHAH 19 

Uiiblamably, by patriotic war, 
The ancient fields whence Israel of old, 
On his departure from the banks of Nile, 
Had driven forth the rightful Ammonite lord 
By armed aggression. And if Israel still 
Were resolute to hold those lands, and chose 
Rather to fight in maintenance of wrong 
Than to restore what violence had seized, 
The avenging gods would strike to vindicate 
The righteous claims of Ammon. But if now 
'Twere Israel's better will, by justice ruled, 
All to relinquish that by wrong was won, 
And freely to retire from those wide lands 
Which Arnori and the Jabbok waters bound 
Eastward extending to the desert lone, 
And west to Jordan's gently gliding stream 
Then Ammon readily would make a league 
On equitable terms, and sacredly, 
Once made, observe it, to their mutual gain. 
All this the herald to our chief rehearsed, 
And with this answer forthwith sped his way : 
That neither Jephthah nor his forefathers 
By force or guile had done the Ammonite wrong. 
The lands laid claim to never were within 
The realm of Ammon ; for three hundred years 
Israel had held them ; nor in all that time 
In jest or earnest had one word been said 
To challenge or to call their right in doubt. 
Haply it is thy thought that what thy god 



20 SACRED DRAMAS 

Chemosh hath held is thine to have and hold, 

But that the lands our God has long possessed 

He will abandon, and will leave its lords 

Outcast, dispersed, and disinherited. 

Will he forsake the soil that worships him ! 

Nay ! as of old, invincible in war, 

He stript our enemies of their wide domains, 

To-day the same just Arbiter will give 

Like happy issue to this battlefield. 

The herald told his tale. Loud, swift and loud, 
Was the reply : from brazen lips it came, 
And struck the startled air. Loud o'er the field 
The onset sounded ; and at once uprose 
A din confused and deafening. Shouts of men 
And clash of arms were mingled with the noise 
Of snorting steeds and rattling chariots. 
The concave vault of heaven echoed loud 
The resonant discord, while the trembling earth 
Groaned on its axis, and the hills rolled back 
In volume deep the repercussive roar. 
Then was the fierce and deadly struggle ; then 
Each warrior his bravery and skill 
Put forth as if the issue of the day 
Hung on his single sword. The combatants 
Fight with mixed fortune ; strike, are stricken ; chase 
And flee by turns. With blood the rippling streams 
Are deep empurpled. Over all the field 
A cloud of dust, dense as the cloud of night, 
Brought darkness o'er the sky ; but respite none 



JEPHTHAH 21 

Brought to the maddening conflict. Fiercely raged 

The Ammonite, reliant on the strength 

Of his proud muster. Confidence in God 

And in our juster cause inspired our ranks 

With equal resolution. While the line 

On neither side gave way, but each maintained 

Its ground with stubborn valour, lo, amid 

The gloom of dust enveloping the field, 

Amid the cries and groans of wounded men, 

And the keen shouts of captains urging on 

To uttermost achievement, the dense cloud 

That overhung the writhing combatants 

Rolled off, and day shone down upon the plain 

Undimmed in splendour. Then it was there burst 

A crash of pealing thunder from the sky, 

Whose deep imperious voice, reverberating 

Loud and prolonged, arrested on the spot 

The furious conflict. Awe and dread dismayed 

The boldest-hearted ; the uplifted hand 

Drooped nerveless in amazement ; while the limbs 

Of mould most warlike by a chilling cold 

Lost spring and tension, thewless and benumbed. 

'Twas then our leader, with a mighty voice 

And look aflame with ardour, cried aloud 

As with a battle-shout : Thee, Father of all 

Thee will we follow where thou leadst, and where 

Thy flaming brand waves us to follow thee. 

'Tis God, 'tis God, who with these swift-sped bolts 

Strikes down the foemen's ranks ; and all the sky 



22 SACRED DRAMAS 

Blazes with fiery squadrons. Israel, strike 

For God and for your homes! Far o'er the plain 

The words were heard, clear as a battle-shout, 

Both armies traversing. Ah, then the sword 

Of Israel descended, raining blows 

Deadly and swift, as if each gleaming brand 

Were grasped by hand unwearied. Panic-struck, 

From the lost field the Ammonite wildly rushed, 

And Israel with redoubled strength pursued; 

Nor ended either the pursuit or flight 

Till Night, descending on her sable clouds, 

In shadows deep enwrapt the field of blood, 

And to the warriors weary with pursuit 

Brought welcome rest, and to the fugitives 

Concealment yet more welcome. 

CHO. Wherefore then 

Brings not the conqueror his forces home? 

MES. Stay ; the grim tale of war is not yet told 
To the full end. 

CHO. Haply his scattered ranks 

The foe is rallying, or with musters new 
Presents a threatening front. 

MES. So might it be 

If men stark dead may hear the muster-call, 
And rally round their chief. And dead they are; 
For God assembled the whole warlike strength 
Of that perfidious race, to reap it down 
In one lost battle. Thus, crushed utterly, 
They either cumber now with ghastly heaps 



JEPHTHAH 23 

The field they fought on, or wide o'er the plain 

And scattered far their livid corses lie, 

And feed the vultures. And no war shall thence 

In many years arise. With wise forethought 

Our captain has engaged futurity, 

And hath to late posterity ensured 

A quiet, restful time. O'er the whole realm 

Of Ammoii swiftly his victorious arms 

He carried ; twenty towns he overthrew ; 

Low as the ground he laid their battlements ; 

Red flames enwrapt their roofs ; the weary sword 

Slew all of manhood's years. The fields were made 

A barren waste ; and none but tender boys, 

Unwarlike women, and men worn with age, 

Are left to roam the devastated soil, 

And mourn their country's ruin and their own. 

CHORUS 

Bringer of the golden light, 
Sun, that in thy swift-winged flight, 
Returning o'er thy shining way, 
Rulest the change of night and day, 
And by thy ever-wandering flame 
Givest to the year a name, 
Measuring to this globe terrene 
The times and ages that have been : 
At last, after thy circuiting 
Twenty times its annual ring 



24 SACRED DRAMAS 

Hath closed, O Sun, again thy beam 
Gladsomely adown doth stream 
Upon the race of Israel FREE, 
Restored to long-lost Liberty ! 

The ill-starred inroad on our land 
Made by the Ammonite's proud band 
The might of Jephthah hath repelled; 
And Ammon's insolence is quelled, 
The spoiler spoiled. Ah, nought availed 
The feathered shafts his bowmen hailed, 
Nor rushing charge by chariots made, 
Redoubtable with curving blade. 
The squadroned horsemen could not save, 
Nor phalanx deep of soldiers brave, 
The host which Heaven had doomed to yield 
Upon that fatal battlefield. 

Now learn at last, ye faithless ! own 
At last that not of wood or stone 
Is fashioned the Eternal God ; 
Nor is the Deity's abode 
In circumscribed metallic heaven 
By sculptor's skilful fingers graven ; 
Nor yet in mass of clay inert 
Made under moulder's hand expert 
The human form to counterfeit. 
Our God hath his celestial seat 



JEPHTHAH 25 

Above the radiant orbs that roam 
By day and night the azure dome. 
In majesty Omnipotent, 
The author and the life is he 
Of all created things that be; 
And never man the eye hath bent 
Upon his viewless form; nor may 
The hand of mortal e'er portray 
An image of the Invisible. 
Who can resist his sovereign will ? 
He curbs the foolish pride of kings, 
And, just in all his ways, he brings 
Far other than the event desired 
To godless aims and hopes inspired 
By bad ambition. Yea, and he, 
When sorrow burdens heavily 
The blameless bosom, undelayed 
Sends down his comfort-bringing aid. 
He lifts the poor man from the dust, 
And him whose humble place of trust 
Is but to tend the flock doth raise 
Until with skilful hand he sways 
The golden sceptre, and around 
His brows the diadem is bound, 
Sparkling with many a lustrous gem 
The king-encircling diadem. 

Him, as sole Deity and King, 
Let all this wondrous art-wrought thing, 



SACRED DRAMAS 

The earth, beneath whatever sky 

The homes and haunts of men do lie, 

Acknowledge, reverence, and love 

Both where the Sun, mounting above 

The eastern rim, with slanting beam 

Strikes down on woodland, strath and stream, 

And where, beneath his noontide way, 

Burns his too near and fiercer ray. 

And let this high ascription have 

The voice of all who lip the wave 

Where Tagus' noble flood is rolled 

Over his sands of yellow gold ; 

And those who dwell in regions drear, 

Storm-swept and wintry all the year, 

Where snows perpetual enfold 

The earth's wan bosom icy-cold. 

Ho, Hebrew maidens! each fair neck 
Let the entwining gold bedeck; 
And let your darkly flowing hair 
Breathe out odours sweet and rare. 
Ho, Hebrew maids! your temples bind 
With the sparkling gems of Ind ; 
And, lightly tripping strew around 
With flowers of many hues the ground. 
Speed ye ! why linger all too long 
The cymbal's silvery tinkling ring, 
And harp and lyre with trembling string, 
To sound a new triumphal song 



JEPHTHAH 27 

To our victorious Lord on high ? 

Why hear we not the minstrelsy 

Of modulated pipe ? and, lo, 

Is there not one with nimble toe 

To strike the ground in measured beat? 

Not one to own that it is meet 

To banish on this festal day 

Gloom from every breast away, 

And in the dance's wheeling maze 

Forget the ills of careworn days? 

Let the fairest of the flock 
A victim on the altar smoke, 
While odours sweet in clouds aspire 
From the festive altar-fire. 
And thou, child of our leader bold, 
Hope of a name henceforth enrolled 
With heroes in thy bright array 
Deck thee, maiden, and away ! 
Thy sire returned from war's alarms 
Embrace with joy in loving arms. 
Go, Iphis, quickly robe thee now 
In lustrous folds, and from thy brow 
Restrain the wandering twisted tress, 
And bid him in thy beauteousness 
Abounding welcome. Hark ! the hum 
Of martial voices ! and they come 
Near and yet nearer ! Maiden, see ! 
It is thy father home to thee! 



28 SACRED DRAMAS 



JEPHTHAH 

Monarch of all the world, my voice to thee 
I lift in adoration lift to thee, 
For thou alone art God, and thou alone 
Bendest to kneeling worshipper an ear 
Attentive to his prayer. Omnipotent ! 
What mortal tongue may speak thee as thou art, 
Or frame fit words to name thy character ? 
A stern avenger art thou, yet thy heart 
Melts with a father's pity ; to thy foes 
A God of terror and severity. 
But to all those that love thee thou art good 
And gentle, and when evil days befall 
Thou art their refuge and deliverer. 
Thy wrath is dreadful; yet it doth not burn 
Implacable for ever; while thy love 
Is boundless, warmer than all love that glows 
In human bosom: yet 'tis love that burns 
Mixt oft with burning anger, justly incensed 
By rebel deeds, and provocation long. 

So have we seen. We have endured the woes 
Of subjugation to our enemies ; 
And, impious, by the impious have been scourged 
And pierced with many sorrows. All is just 
Most just the punishment which we have borne, 
We, who forsook thee, King, Protector, God, 
Maker of all things, of perennial good 



JEPHTHAH 29 

The ever-flowing fountain and invoked 
In foolish supplication speechless stones, 
And to deaf wood made vainly anxious vows. 

With shame I speak the words with reddening 

shame : 

Man, with discursive reason furnished man, 
In whom resides the imperishable spark 
Of heaven-enkindled intellect, adores 
Irrational and mindless forest stocks ; 
With living hands burns incense to things dead; 
And low bows down in superstitious awe 
To worship his own handwork. Therefore we, 
Forsaking, were forsaken, and have borne 
The righteous penalty of our misdeeds, 
Crushed and subdued by long-succeeding ills. 
Raid after raid, in devastating force, 
The bands of Edom and Philistia, 
And the fierce Ammonite, and Syria's hordes 
Have with contaminating foot o'errun 
The sacred soil assigned to be the lot 
And heritage of thy people. But at last, 
Taught by calamity and driven by scorn 
The scorn of taunting foes we have returned, 
So late returned, to thee ; so late but still 
Thou art a God benign and merciful, 
And thy just rage thou reinest in ; thy wrath 
Ebbs from thy pitying bosom ; guilty deeds 
Which thou perforce must hate thou yet dost cease 
To call to thy remembrance; and thy children, 



30 SACRED DRAMAS 

Renounced for their deep crimes and held as sons 
Forth banished from thy favour, yet again, 
Relenting, in thy mercy infinite 
Thou to thy love restorest. And yet more, 
As if it were a little thing to grant 
To treason and revolt of darkest hue 
For such our crime thy pardon, thou dost heap 
New triumphs on us, victory and renown. 
Stript of his warlike panoply and pomp, 
The foe, dispirited, has turned and fled, 
With bow unstrung. His chariots of war 
Stumble, impeded in their headlong flight, 
O'er the unnumbered dead that strew the plain. 
The boaster who so proudly thought to bind 
Jerusalem in chains lies stark and cold, 
A banquet to the vultures. Ghastly Death 
Covers the fields with carnage, and the brooks 
Are running red and swollen with the blood 
Of Israel's foes and thine. Eternal King! 
Creator of the world and Judge Supreme ! 
We therefore with a glad and grateful mind 
Our deep-felt thanks repay ; for deeply felt 
And all unfeigned our gratitude, bound up 
In the remembrance of thy glorious acts. 
O'er bleeding victims we will make to thee 
Our suppliant prayers, and on thine altar burn 
Full many a sacrifice. And while the flames 
Leap round the victim, and the curling smoke 
Mounts high above us, we will sing to thee, 



JEPHTHAH 31 

Adoring thee as God alone, our God, 

And Father of our fathers, whom thou ledst 

Safe through the Red Sea's foaming waves, when thou 

Didst give command and the vast heaving deep 

Sank into placid rest, and raged no more ; 

And the soft fluid brine, by strange constraint, 

Parted and stood congealed. On either side 

The glassy deep hung like a sparkling wall 

Of massive crystal, to thy voice of power 

Obedient, who didst charge it to prepare 

A pathway for thy people. O most High ! 

Remembering thy covenant of old 

Gentle and gracious as thou ever art 

Deign to accept my vow. Though poor the gift, 

Tis from a grateful heart, and due to thee 

According to the vow which late I made 

On eve of battle. Home victorious 

I now return, and whatsoever first 

Shall come to meet me from my threshold forth 

To thee shall be devoted, and its blood 

Shall stain thine altar, a burnt-offering : 

Although no victim man may immolate 

Can counterweigh thy gifts. But thou interpretest 

Kindly and generously the offerings 

Laid on thine altar by a grateful heart ; 

And as thou ever faithfully dost keep 

Thy promises, so art thou pleased when we 

Do faithfully to thee perform our vows. 

And thou dost deal with men as are their deeds 



32 SACRED DRAMAS 

Stern to revolters, making them to feel 

The curbing and the stroke of thy strong hand; 

But ever gentle, ever merciful 

To all who meekly venerate thy name : 

Nor is there other Power whom heaven and earth 

And the dark shadowy realm of death obey. 

IPHIS, JEPHTHAH, SYMMACHUS, CHORUS 

I PH. The hour that I have waited for is come, 
And I go forth to snatch the joy it brings, 
And look upon my father's face again. 

O next to God to be revered by me ! 
Suffer me now to feel my father's arms 
Enfold me to his bosom. No ? alas, 
Why gazest thou on me with eyes so fixed, 
And stern as if in anger ? 

JEPH. Woe to me ! 

IPH. Now God avert upon our foes the ill 
Thy words do darkly bode. 

JEPH. Would it might be! 

But they strike home. 

IPH. Thy speech is full of fear, 

But void to me of meaning. W T hat is it 
Thy words so darkly veil? 

JEPH. My darling child, 

Born to such misery! Woe, woe to me! 

IPH. Alas, I weep to hear thee ; weep and tremble. 
Fares the army well? 






JEPHTHAH 33 

JEPH. Right well. 

IPH. And thou hast conquered? 

JEPH. Yea. 

IPH. And no cruel wound has sought thy 

life? 

JEPH. I am unhurt. 

IPH. Why heaves thy bosom then 

With these deep moans and sighs thou fain wouldst 
hide? 

JEPH. There is no need for thee to know the cause 
Just yet; the time will come. 

IPH. Alas, my father; 

I know not how I have offended thee 
To my deep sorrow. 

JEPH. Thou hast not offended : 

Thy father has to thy deep hurt, poor girl! 

IPH. I know no wrong thou canst have done to me ; 
But say I had been wronged by some mischance, 
It ought not to distress thee thus ; for wrongs 
By parents done must not be murmured at, 
But borne submissively. 

JEPH. Thy words, my child, 

Are wise and well become thee; but the more 
Thou minglest wisdom with thy artless words 
The deeper is the wound thou openest 
In my sad breast. 

IPH. O, whatsoe'er it be, 

My father, that perturbs thy mind, avoid 
The present thought of it. Thy countrymen 



34 SACRED DRAMAS 

With one consent are now rejoicing 
For blessings won by thee : mar not their joy 
By thy dejectedness, and let thy friends 
Be glad in thy glad presence. 

JEPH. Presence brief 

Bringing long absence between me and thee. 

IPH. Haply war's perils call thee hence again? 

JEPH. No crisis war could bring so grave and dread 
As meets me now at home. 

IPH. Can there be there 

At home a graver peril than in war? 

JEPH. In war I found deliverance; at home 
I am undone, and all is lost to me. 

IPH. O say not so ; thy country and thy hearth 
Are saved, and owe their welfare to thy sword. 

JEPH. Be it ; my thanks to bounteous Heaven are 

due 
For that good ending. 

IPH. Ever for like cause 

May thanks be due by thee. 

JEPH. And yet I fear 

The safety wrought will not endure for long. 

IPH. O, then, while yet it lasts, and our affairs 
Stand prosperously, it is meet we bow 
The suppliant knee to Heaven, and perform 
The vows which we have vowed. For 'tis unmeet 
When the wild blast begins again to blow 
And discompose our bosoms, then to urge 
The Deity with prayers in days serene 



JEPHTHAH 35 

Unworshipped, unremembered, and passed by. 

And he who in his clear and sunny days, 

When all is well, has striven to be approved 

Of God he, when the adverse storm assails, 

Is buttressed by his sense of rectitude, 

And unpresumptuous but confident 

Kneels known to seek the aid vouchsafed of Heaven, 

The aid already in Heaven's self-moved grace 

Descending to his side. Serene in heart 

He utters forth the vows devotion claims, 

And firm in hope forecasts the coming years. 

JEPH. Thou bidst me think of that whereon my 

thoughts 
Already brood, and which must be performed. 

IPH. And what restrains thy hand ? 

JEPH. My daughter, leave 

The ordering to my care; and what befits 
A maiden's mind and years, that care be thine. 

IPH. But nought can be of unconcern to me 
That touches thee, my father. 

JEPH. Ah, 'tis so ! 

But meanwhile let it be tny care at home 
That all things there are seemly : so shalt thou 
Do as thy father wills thee. Afterward 
Return thou hither in a little while; 
There is a sacrifice that calls thee soon. 

IPH. It shall be so; I go and soon return. 
O my sad heart, what is it has so changed 
My father's wonted feeling toward me? 



36 SACRED DRAMAS 

Till now no man than he was tenderer, 

Nor ever child by parent held more dear. 

And now he is so sullen, stem, and grim, 

And bears an aspect dark and menacing, 

As if he still were smiting down his foes 

In the mid tumult of the battle strife. 

There is deep cause for this, whate'er it be ; 

And though I know it not, I dread it greatly. 

He grieves for me to my bewilderment; 

For in my heart I find no fault to move 

A parent's anger. 'Tis the cruel lot 

Which woman still is born to. Though she be 

Stainless as heaven's azure, Calumny 

With venomed fang rends her pure innocence. 

The fiction of a prating menial 

Wreaking a spite; the baseless fancy bred 

In the wild freaks of wedded jealousy ; 

The whisper of a beldam neighbour, breathed 

In utter malice; all is held for truth 

If levelled at a woman's name and fame. 

What ill my father may surmise of me 

I cannot grasp. There is no anodyne, 

To make my grief endurable, like this 

Which still is mine a heart that hath no stain. 

SYM. Well hast thou said ; and well thy words ex- 
press 

The daughter of a hero, and the child 
Of a chaste matron, and the unconquered soul 
Of Hebrew maiden worthy of her race. 



JEPHTHAH 37 

Malignity may fabricate a crime ; 
But God the Judge looks on the secret thoughts, 
And vindicates the guiltless, whosoe'er 
May slander and revile. The full rewards 
Of life lived out and ended are from him ; 
And thitherward our hope and striving tend, 
Not wavering and vain the Heavens are just. 
But wrongs a father, cruel or kind, may do, 
His children must submissively endure. 
Wherefore, obedient to thy father's will, 
Revisit now thy home. Should ought emerge 
From the dark fringe of this obscurity, 
Here like a fowler will I watch for it, 
Close on thy father's heels ; and all I learn 
Shall quickly follow thee. 

CHO. Truly, herein 

Thou tak'st a friendly course, good Symmachus. 

SYM. I pledge my zeal. 

CHO. O do thy uttermost 

To free the trembling girl from this alarm. 
It is a claim old friendship makes of thee ; 
For thou of old hast been her father's friend, 
And never interrupted in its course 
Of perfect faith thy friendship yet hath been 
Since first thy cradled infancy awoke 
To conscious being. And thy country claims 
This service of thee ; for thy country owes 
To Jephthah her deliverance. 

SYM. Say 110 more : 



38 SACRED DRAMAS 

Entrust this task to my fidelity. 

CHO. Do it with all thy art ; and the dark folds 
Of Jephthah's mind shake out and bring to view. 

SYM. Fear not ; from me he neither can nor will 
Conceal the trouble of his soul. I know 
The time and way to sound his very heart. 

CHORUS 

Wish happiest augury 
speed on thy quest ! 

And He who sees ev'ry re- 
cess of the breast 

Who reads the heart's innermost 
thoughts where they lurk; 

And nought from his view is lost 
man e'er can work 

The heart and the life who tries, 
thoughts and deeds done 

Prosper the enterprise 
thou hast begun! 

But, Malice, thou evil thing, 

who shall assign 
The doom which thy deeds shall bring 

on thee condign? 
The falsehoods thou weavest, 

the crimes thou dost feign, 
The friendships thou cleavest 

asunder again : 



JEPHTHAH 39 

The strife which thou makest 

by wickedest arts ; 
The bonds which thou breakest 

between wedded hearts : 
The fathers thou turnest 

from fondness to ire, 
Whose bosoms thou burnest 

with spite-kindled fire, 
When thy venom has wrung them 

with torturing pain, 
And to frenzy has stung them 

and maddened the brain : 

O Malice, thou evil thing, 

these are thy crimes 
What doom on thee shall they bring 

in the last times ? 
In the deepest abyss 

of the caverns below, 
There have thou thy place 

with the prisoners of woe : 
There let darkness for ever 

encompass thee round, 
And trace of thee never 

on earth more be found ! 

When He, the high witness 

and judge of hid things, 
In challengeless fitness 

this doom on thee brings, 



40 SACRED DRAMAS 

O how many woes 

that now weary the heart 
And banish repose 

shall down with thee depart! 
And how many a breast 

now distracted with pain 
Shall return to its rest 

and be happy again ! 

SYMMACHUS, JEPHTHAH 

SYM. Leader renowned in arms, what sudden cause 
Hath robbed thy countenance of its wonted mien ? 
What grief is this that mars our festal joys, 
Sad-eyed and troubled? Fear has fled our land; 
Our treacherous foemen .have endured the stroke 
Of righteous vengeance, and our country breathes 
Once more the air of sweet tranquillity. 
Shouldst not thou, therefore, while the State outpours 
Its gratulations on thy victory, 
And while thy grateful country lauds thy name, 
Lifting it to the stars, a general hum 
Of songs triumphal filling all the land: 
Shouldest not thou, who of this public joy 
Art source and author, share thine own effect, 
And, in the general joy participant, 
Rejoice and be glad? 

JEPH. O pleasant lot 

That's lowliest, and in its lowly depths 



JEPHTHAH 41 

Finds deep tranquillity and stormless calm ! 

Benign the star that shone upon his birth 

Who spends; his days far from tumultuous scenes, 

Unnamed, unknown, his best security 

The silence that surrounds him and conceals. 

SYM. Nay ; richly dowered with real happiness 
Him rather would I deem, whose manly worth, 
By manly deeds approved, hath gained for him 
Eternal honour ; whose achievements high . , 

Have dragged him from obscurity, around 
Haloing his name with glory till it shines 
Resplendent to all eyes, and marks him' one 
Distinguished from the ignoble multitude 
Who love their ease and shrink from glorious toils. 
O happy he, whose justly won renown 
To future ages shall endear his name, 
And in the hearts of living men embalm 
His memory for ever, as a man 
To be remembered, while the inglorious dead 
In myriads sleep forgotten. But a man 
To slumberous indolence and sloth enthralled 
W T ho spends an aimless and a sluggish life, 
Like the dull herds that browse. the sunny fields- 
It matters not, I ween, whether he die, 
Or lead a life obscurer than the grave : 
On both alike there rests a silence deep, 
Alike upon his life and on his tomb. 

Wherefore since Heaven has heaped thy favoured lot 
With all that bounteous Heaven can give to man 



42 SACRED DRAMAS 

With praise and honour, wealth and high renown, 

And victory in battle recognize 

With thankful heart God's great benignity : 

And sully not by sordid utterances 

The lustre of thy name. For there is nought, 

Nor aught can be, more pleasing unto God 

Than is a heart that gratefully receives 

His gifts, remembering ever whence they be. 

JEPH. Wealth, honour, victory, and laurelled fame,. 
Triumph and glory won on fields of war 
These are high-sounding words that charm the ear 
And steal men's admiration. But regard 
With closer scrutiny the things that seem 
So sweet and pleasant at first view, too soon 
Shalt thou discover that they cheat the eye; 
And if thou taste the things that seem so sweet, 
Straight shalt thou find in them an aftertaste 
That smarts with the fierce bitterness of gall. 
Never on living man has Fortune shone 
So fair and radiant that she weighs not down 
Her favours with disfavouring counterpoise 
In the opposing scale. What lot but hath 
Embittering admixture. Evermore 
Bitter and sweet, and sweet with bitter things, 
Are in our cup commingled. Thou dost deem 
Me happy, measuring my happiness 
By unsubstantial glitter and the applause 
Now general and loud, soon silent Me 
Whom miseries most real overwhelm! 



JEPHTHAH 43 

SYM. O say not so ; rather conceive it thus 
That Fortune, friendly to thy utmost wish, 
Offers thee all her best. What yet is left 
For thee to crave or win ? But yesterday 
Scorned, banished, driven from thy father's house, 
And thrust away into the wild lone land, 
A lowly cabin all that called thee lord ; 
To-day, as with the swiftness of a dream, 
Enriched magnificently, -as dreamers are. 
What wouldst thou ? Yet, misprising the large doweiv 
Thou murmurest, thou murmurest passionately 
So heavy is the load of place and power. 
Ah, if that burden bear thee down, thou art 
Poor-spirited and lackest that which makes 
The soul of heroes, magnanimity. 
Is Heaven's munificence a grief to thee ? 
Well then for thee were thy relinquished lot 
And pristine cabin roof! To sovereign power 
Men rush through fire and sword, eager to seize 
The glittering fascination; sovereignty, 
Unsought, unthought of, drops into thy hand, 
And thou hast but to grasp it and 'tis thine. 
Most men that win buy victory with blood 
Bled from their veins with slaughter of their friends- 
Ranked on the deadly field with detriment, 
Not soon repaired, to the whole commonweal. 
But thou thou bringest bloodless laurels home ; 
Thy mustered ranks are full, thyself unscathed, 
And thou with general acclaim art hailed 



44 SACRED DRAMAS 

The Saviour of thy country, and the dread 

Of all thy country's foes. Nay, view thyself: 

Raised from thy poor estate to opulence, 

From servitude to freedom; yesterday 

Lost in the ignoble throng, to-day renowned 

And thy proud deeds with glowing praise extolled 

To the high empyrean; now, no more 

Merged in the nameless multitude, thou art 

Our chosen chieftain, foremost of the land 

And nobler than the noblest. Is there aught 

Yet lacking to round off thy happiness 

To the last limit of enrichment? Nought 

Save only this, the power to use aright 

God's bounteous gifts, capacity to match 

The volume of thy great prosperity. 

JEPH. Friend, I perceive thou thinkest as the crowd, 
Swayed by a strong delusion. Couldst thou see 
With the mind's eye as clearly as thy glance 
Can pierce the stream that o'er its pebbled bed 
Flows limpid as the sunbeam couldst thou thus 
Discern how greatness to great ills is placed 
In perilous apposition, thou wouldst grant 
1 speak not at a venture when I call 
My state, which thou so greatly dost extol, 
Most miserable. 

SYM. Thus it ever is. 

Our own inconstancy and discontent, 
Bred of a mind that cannot be at rest, 
Unfit us to bear either destiny 



JEPHTHAH 

With just appreciation. Rich men laud 

The air of sweet tranquillity that reigns 

Around the poor man's lot ; the silence deep 

Which no loud trumpet-call to arms invades ; 

The slumbers that are free from wakefulness ; 

The wakeful hours embittered by no care. 

The poor man lavishes his praise on gold 

Gold, purple, menials, vassals, equipage, 

Stately magnificence, and lordly halls 

And deems the rich are blest alone of men. 

But weigh in a just balance either lot; 

From troubling ills neither is wholly free. 

The child of poverty is pinched by want ; 

The opulent are haunted still by fear. 

Wealth brings full many pleasures ; poverty 

Brings with it its own sheltering defence, 

And in its lowly vale it sleeps secure. 

In every lot sorrow and gladness meet, 

And doubtless that is to be deemed the best 

Where joys are multiplied and griefs are few 

Such lot as bounteous Heaven hath made thine own, 

Wherein are gathered in one shining heap 

Honour and wealth, renown and victory ; 

Even such the glorious guerdon thou hast won. 

To spurn it from thee is to play the fool; 

To recognize it not is mere revolt ; 

Wliile inability to bear its weight 

With seemly moderation that, methinks, 

Would make a question of thy manliness. 



46 SACRED DRAMAS 

JEPH. In vain with common pharmacy thou triest 
To medicine my wound. There is no balm 
For this deep hurt, no healing. My disease 
Preys on my inmost vitals, and its seat 
Lies deep beyond thy reach. Must I not grieve? 
Yea, and my sorrow is the bitterer 
That blame in me intensifies my loss ; 
And misery following beyond all thought 
Of mine, hath made mine error huge indeed. 

SYM. Thou call'st me friend, nor ever hitherto 
Hast found reproach in my fidelity : 
Is there a cause that bids thee not disclose 
Thy sorrow to my friendly sympathy, 
Nor trust thy woeful secret to mine ear ? 

JEPH. Hast thou remembrance of a vow I made ? 

SYM. That was to bind thee if the army sped 
And home returned in safety ? 

JEPH. Thou hast named 

The secret of my sorrow. Would I had been 
More wary and forethoughtful ere I bound 
A vow upon my soul. 

SYM. It passes me 

To frame the inadvertence in my thoughts. 

JEPH. Yet brings it ruin on my house and me. 

SYM. A victim slam bring ruin upon all! 
How can it be ? 

JEPH. Alas, my child was left 

Sole hope of all her race in coming years. 

SYM. Her wilt thou slay! What dread necessity 



JEPHTHAH 47 

Compels the deed? 

JEPH. She first on our return 

Came forth to meet us. 

SYM. And came well. What crime 

Lay in so doing? 

JEPH. I have vowed; my vow 

Demands of me unswerving faithfulness. 

SYM. Ah, this is then the pinch that wrings so 
hard ! 

JEPH. Tis so ; a rankling .barb fixed in my breast 
And never from the wound can it be torn 
Till stained with a revolting sacrifice, 
Deep as the victim's crimson blood can stain 
Ruined and miserable, I in ruin crush 
My miserable dear ones, and so pay 
The debt due to just Heaven for them and me. 
But, O thou King Omnipotent, who sitt'st 
Above the thundercloud, and from thy hand 
Hurlest the flashing lightning before whom 
Heaven and earth and the dark realm below 
Tremble in awed subjection O, if e'er, 
Proudly obeying thy supreme behests, 
By word or deed I have accomplished aught 
That pleased thee on thy kneeling suppliant 
Look down in mercy, and my prayer hear! 
No more I ask of thee proud victories, 
And plaudits of the people wild with joy. 
Bring back the storm of battle; bring the spears 
Of vengeful Ammon dense and menacing, 



48 SACRED DRAMAS 

And let them bear me down in the thick fight, 
Down to the ensanguined dust, and there dispatch 
This noxious life pierced with a thousand wounds. 

CHO. O what a fall is here ! Since time began 
No bliss endures unbroken unto man : 
The joys of earth are never undecayed ; 
Fair as they bloom, they only bloom to fade. 

JEPH. Or let thine irresistible right hand, 
Cleaving the sky with thy far-reaching bolt, 
On me, accursed and godless parricide, 
Discharge thy levin, in a whirlwind sped 
Of swift, tumultuous fire. I am even now 
A hurtful creature, and a life prolonged 
Would make me yet more noxious day by day. 
Down therefore hurl me, even as I breathe, 
Into the nether darkness deep, where I, 
Engulfed and swallowed up in darkest gloom, 
Shall nevermore work harm to living thing. 

SYM. So grave a matter must not be dispatched 
With rash and sudden haste. Within thy breast 
A hidden tumult rages, and thou art 
Perturbed well-nigh to frenzy. Calm thyself: 
When this deep agitation sinks to rest, 
And thou art free to ponder wholesome rede 
Then, after well-weighed council with thy friends, 
Thou shalt determine all even as thou wilt, 
Ruled by thy calmer judgment. 

JEPH. To consult 

Is helpful at a doubtful pass ; but he 



JEPHTHAH 49 

Who seeks for counsel where no help can come 
And remedy is none, toils all in vain 
And adds but foolishness to misery. 

SYM. But remedies avail when timely used. 

JEPH. True ; if the malady do not transcend 
The healer's art. 

SYM. If haply at first view 

Great difficulties oppose, there is no cause 
At once and altogether to despair. 
Rather, 'tis wise and thoughtful counselling 
Thou needest all the more. Oft it befalls 
That the perplexed and tangled ravelment 
Which baffles one man to another yields. 
Arid if thou act on counsel, pondered well 
And yet unwise, and the effect be good, 
The praise is thine that waits upon success ; 
While, if the event be evil, none can blame 
Uiicounselled rashness as the evil cause. 
To act unwisely under high advice 
Is near akin to wisdom. But if no 
Resource be found if round on every side 
Some power invincible obstruct thy path, 
Or fate beyond contending where advice 
Is baffled, and can give no guiding word 
Then, be the issue what it may, reproach 
Will fall from none whose counsel thou hast sought. 
Whereas if, silently, thou wilt achieve 
Thy fell intent, a horror new to men, 
The friend who, in thy counsel, would have been 



50 SACRED DRAMAS 

As thou art and have deemed thy course the best, 
Will be the first to argue from the event, 
And make the issue blame thee will aver 
There had been found a timely remedy 
Had timely conference not been withheld. 

CHO. Scorn not right warning ; deeds too rashly done 
Bring, in remembrance, deep remorse and long. 

CHORUS 

Though sad the tidings I shall bring, 
A sad and all-unwelcome thing ; 
And though it send a wilder throe 
Through hearts already wrung with woe 
Alike to matron and to maid, 
To poignant misery betrayed, 
1 am resolved all to disclose, 
Rehearsing matters as they rose. 
Perchance reflexion due or prayer 
May yet their mournful lot repair. 

Meanwhile these falling tears I weep 
O'er the calamities that sweep 
The joys of human life away. 
What descant shall 1 first essay 
Of lamentation ? Shall I sound 
The misery of Jephthah, bound 
So fast in errors reasonless 
As to believe him brought to this, 



JEPHTHAH 

That he, his piety to save. 

Must lay his child in fiery grave. 

Or shall I rather weep for thee, 
O maiden born to misery ? 
For thee I weep this dropping brine ; 
What lot so pitiable as thine, 
Who in thy tender blossoming 
Must perish, winter-nipt in spring 
Hope bade thee rarest things await, 
And brought thee to the golden gate, 
The entrance to all earthly bliss ; 
And Hope hath promised all amiss. 
Full low thy fairest hopes are laid, 
Down-trodden in no sudden raid 
Of foes marauding o'er the land 
And leading thee 'mid captive band 
Of weeping maidens far away : 
Nor is it Heaven hath sent decay 
To wither thy unfolding bloom 
And lay thee early in the tomb : 
Thy father's hand shall strike the blow 
That brings thee and thy beauty low. 
A sacrifice thou shalt be slain, 
And from thy rudely severed vein 
The reeking blood shall gush and fall 
As from a slaughtered animal ; 
And the red stream shall stain the ground 
And crimson all the altar round. 



52 SACRED DRAMAS 

The knife thy tender limbs shall shear, 

Which fellest foemen would defend, 

And wildest bear the forests rear, 

Famished and fierce, would spare to rend. 

O maiden born to misery, 

Deadly the weird thou art to dree ! 

Never thy conquering father's blow 

Wouldst thou have met from conquering foe. 

Rejoice, ye dead that strew the plain 
By the sword of Jephthah slain ! 
If aught of life and feeling still 
Lurk in your bosoms stark and chill, 
Rejoice! not unavenged ye lie. 
Behold the dreadful penalty 
The victor from himself exacts! 
For so the Power Supreme enacts 
That change shall ever follow change 
Swiftly through life's allotted range ; 
And 'tis immutably decreed 
That sorrows shall to joys succeed 
As surely as the dark-winged Night 
Follows the setting orb of light, 
Or Winter cold and blustering 
Follows the balmy days of Spring. 
There is no joy on earth so pure 
Its sweetness will unchanged endure. 
The cup we raise with lips so fain 
Smarts with loathed gall ere we can drain. 



JEPHTHAH 53 

Full many a wile and treachery, 

Unrecked of, all around us lie ; 

And many a sharp and cruel turn 

Between the cradle and the urn 

Embittereth the life of man, 

And marks with woe its chequered span. 

So, when the waves are sunk to rest 
And slumber still on Ocean's breast, 
And all the expanse of waters vast 
Lies calm and hushed, and on the mast 
The idle sail hangs motionless, 
And woos in vain the zephyr's kiss, 
And in the sky if cloud there be, 
Its shadow sleeps on the sleeping sea : 
Even then the whirling tempest, nursed 
In cloud and darkness, forth will burst, 
And furiously upheave the sea 
In waves far-rolled and billowy. 
Again the wild impetuous dash 
Of rushing waters, and the crash 
And roar of the loud storm, as past 
It whirls in many a wrathful blast. 
The sail is rent, the staggering keel 
All doubtfully its way doth feel 
Through the convulsed and foaming brine. 
Even such a state, O man, is thine. 

A little calm, and then the wrath 



54 SACRED DRAMAS 

Of storms sweeps o'er thy troubled path. 
And truly little calm have we 
Who sail on this untranquil sea. 
If, amid slaughterings and alarms, 
Attacks, tumultuous calls to arms, 
And dread of death as ever near 
More dreadful than the death we fear 
A gleam of joy shine on our hearts, 
'Tis but a gleam and soon departs, 
Transient as the flickering blaze 
That sparks amid the stubble raise ; 
It comes, is seen, and it is gone, 
Away on the swift breezes flown; 
And then, linked in succession long, 
Trooping, our lasting sorrows throng. 

JEPHTHAH, PRIEST 

JEPH. O holy orb, source of diurnal light ! 
O fathers, happy in your love-lit homes ! 
O whosoe'er from deeds of crime are free ! 
From this abhorred and execrable rite 
Turn far away your eyes. Or, kindly Earth, 
Soon to drink in a guiltless maiden's blood, 
Cleave wide a rifted chasm beneath my feet, 
And in thy deepest caverns swallow me, 
While yet my hands are bloodless. W r ould I were 
Even now engulfed for ever in thy gloom! 
Nay, I recoil not from the abyss of woe, 



JEPHTHAH 55 

If only I may there abide unnamed 

A parricide, the slayer of my child. 

But why speak of Gehenna and its woes ? 

To me my home burns with Gehenna's fire. 

I see the grief-struck countenance of my wife 

Interrogating me 'mid falling tears ; 

I see the look of utter agony 

My child, so soon to die, shall turn on me ; 

I hear her weeping and lamenting voice, 

As, tenderly enclasping me, she sobs 

Her sorrows on my bosom. Woe to me ! 

PR. This is grief raised to frenzy, ere the time 
Such grief as springs from the extremest ills, 
When the raw wound rejects the healer's hand ; 
Or when the wild tempestuous deed is done, 
Never to be undone or remedied. 
But is it so with thee ? The choice is thine 
To be, or not be, miserable. No power 
Compels the dreadful sacrifice ; 'tis left 
In thine own choosing : rather, sooth to say, 
'Tis not so left ; for who may rightly choose 
To bear a load of self-willed misery ? 
No choice is thine to perpetrate a deed 
Which Nature interdicts and Heaven abhors, 
A deed revolting to a parent's heart. 
Parental love is there a stronger power 
Implanted in our breast? Not man alone 
Obeys the mighty impulse ; everywhere 
Its power is present. Whatsoever swims 



56 SACRED DRAMAS 

The ocean depths, or with light-beating wing 

Cleaves the caressing air, or issues forth 

From the earth's teeming bosom all are stirred 

By an inborn and sacred influence. 

For 'tis of God. Eternal Providence 

This strong affection deeply hath infixed 

In mortal bosoms, that the helpless young 

Might be upbrought and nurtured with due care, 

The general concord of the world endure, 

And generations, constantly renewed, 

Replenish the green earth. And deeper still 

To engrave upon our minds the hallowed name, 

It is his will to be, and to be called, 

Our Father ; sanctioning the primal bond 

Of love parental likewise by all things, 

Not by his sole example, but by all, 

Even wildest things of earth and air and sea. 

We who, deserve we but the human name, 

Should have distinguishing humanity, 

In actual tenderness are far surpassed 

By forest beasts, and monsters of the deep 

That gambol 'mid the ocean solitudes. 

The blot of many a crime is on our hands ; 

Nor hold we there ; too rashly we impute 

To Heaven itself crimes every whit as great, 

And hideous things beyond all utterance. 

We feign the Eternal Deity to delight 

In gory offerings : Egypt never held 

Like error, in her ignorance of God; 



JEPHTHAH 57 

Nor Asshur, beyond all the devotee 

Of darkest superstition. Better far 

That we, of birth unstained by blood, should keep 

Our hands by blood unstained, and not forget 

That in religion's rites we have been charged 

To lay pure offerings on our altar-fires. 

Think not our God by gory sacrifice 

Propitiated, or by the blood of bulls. 

They offer best who offer unto him 

A heart polluted by no villainy, 

A mind by simple truth informed and ruled, 

A conscience that is sullied by no stain. 

JEPH. Why then are victims by our Law enjoined ? 

PR. Not that God takes delight in slaughtered rams, 
Or sates his hunger with the smoking flesh 
Of oxen slain ; but he would have us do 
What he commands, and trains us to obey. 

JEPH. But solemn vows are binding, are they not? 

PR. Not if the vows be wrong. The Law regards 
Vows only that are law,ful. 

JEPH. Wiser far, 

I know it well, not to have promised aught 
That might with our time-hallowed customs jar; 
But, now the thing is done, a vow to God, 
Once made, the law of God from heaven revealed 
Commands us to fulfil. 

PR. What law commands 

To immolate thy daughter? 

JEPH. Even that 



58 SACRED DRAMAS 

Which bids us pay the vows that we have vowed. 

PR. To vow a thing which it is wrong to do, 
Can that be right? 

JEPH. Not to perform our vows 

Is wrongdoing: there is no higher wrong. 

PR. What, hadst thou vowed to burn the oracles 
Delivered to the fathers ? 

JEPH. Tis an act 

A maniac might contemplate, no sane man. 

PR. And why ? Because our sacred laws gainsay ? 

JEPH. No doubt. 

PR. Then what of him who slays his 

child ? 

JEPH. Not what is done is of so much concern 
As why thou doest it. The motive shames 
Or sanctifies the deed. 

PR. Canst thou believe 

Thy purpose reverences the will of Heaven ? 

JEPH. Abraham had Heaven's command to offer up 
His only son. 

PR. But he who bade forbade, 

And stayed the uplifted stroke. 

JEPH. Why bade he then? 

PR. That Abraham's faith might shine o'er future 

times, 
A guide to souls in great perplexity. 

JEPH. And why forbid ? 

PR. To show that, justly weighed, 

Obedience is more than sacrifice. 






JEPHTHAH 59 

JEPH. Meet 'tis that all obey the Power Supreme. 

PR. Surely. 

JEPH. And God enjoins us to make vows ? 

PR. Tis so. 

JEPH. Requiring that our vows be paid ? 

PR. Doubtless. 

JEPH. And chides he not with sharp re- 

proof 

The dilatory, and punishment severe 
Exacts of false and faithless men whose vows 
Are made but to be broken ? 

PR. In all this 

Is nought that can avail thee to defend 
Thy meditated crime. Whoe'er he be 
That rashly vows to perpetrate a deed 
Of horror nameless on the lips of men 
That man gives way to mocking dreams, and yields 
To fancies that befool him. Be thy vow 
Whate'er thy folly framed it, and confirmed 
By all asseverations deep and dread, 
Cease, madman, to associate Heaven above 
With thine own wild atrocity ; nor deem 
That he who hates all wickedness, and lays 
In his most holy law a curse upon 
Unhallowed rites, can be propitiated 
By that which he abhors. The voice divine 
Sounds one clear note, one ever with itself, 
And self-accordant all is purest truth ; 
And a command once given from on high 



60 SACRED DRAMAS 

Established stands and fixed for evermore 
For ever fixed, marking to men a path 
Immutable, from which we may not turn 
To right or left one handbreadth. It is meet 
To keep this waymark ever in our view, 
And take the guiding counsels of our life 
From God's good law alone. For he hath set 
That law as a far-gleaming torch to lead 
Our erring and unsteadfast steps aright 
In doubtful places, where misleading paths 
Lurk, and diverge to darkness and to woe. 

Since thou hast rashly swerved, and wandered far 
From the just way which that pure light illumes 
Ere yet thine erring steps mislead thee more, 
To the lost path return. If thou believe 
A foolish vow like thine can be atoned 
By a rite unutterably horrible, 
Thou art deceived. That cruel deed will heap, 
Still higher heap, the measure of thy guilt, 
Not take thy guilt away. Be not beguiled 
By mere illusive semblances of things. 
'Tis true, God takes delight in sacrifice 
Devoutly offered as his law ordains ; 
But vows like thine, revolting, he abhors : 
Nor ever hath the man unpunished gone 
Who, moved albeit by a pious zeal, 
Hath laid upon God's altar fire profane. 
Despise not then the warnings of a friend; 



JEPHTHAH 61 

And, thinking to propitiate thy God, 
Cease to provoke his wrath ; for he will not 
Be worshipped with thine own fantastic rites, 
But in the way he has himself approved, 
Himself appointed. 

JEPH. Oft I have found, full oft, 

That men who seem to be exceeding wise 3 
And vaunt their own superiority 
To the unlettered crowd, have slender claim 
To real wisdom ; none more negligent 
In their observance of the ancient rites, 
Or holding in less reverent regard 
Religion's mysteries. The multitude, 
Rude and untaught, are steadfast to their vows, 
And know no treachery irrevocable 

They hold the word they once have pledged to Heaven. 
And thus, in my poor judgment, learning serves 
No purpose now but over wrong-doing 
To draw a veil, and wrap a fair disguise 
Around dark deeds. But nobler far the aim 
To be than but to seem ; to have no fault, 
Than wear the assumed attire of innocence, 
And under cloak of guileful wariness 
Conceal the villainies of a crafty mind. 
Let none, then, who would have their children formed 
To righteous ways, and held in good esteem, 
Be too solicitous to store their minds 
With learning of the schools. The better skilled 
In that vain lore, the less of reverence 



62 SACRED DRAMAS 

For all that men hold sacred. 

PR. Yet once more, 

Most upright, though in error! let my voice, 
If leisure serve, its warning note resume, 
And show thee, if I may, how ignorance, 
Nurse of credulity, deludes and blinds 
The mind it governs. He who vindicates 
A deed of wrong by pleading in defence 
A popular error, doth not, to my thought, 
Sin aught the more excusably. Supreme 
In heaven and earth, the Lord will not permit 
To evil manners such despotic power 
That a depraved and godless populace 
May change by force of general consent 
Right into wrong and evil into good. 
For though the sycophants of kings may praise 
The worse things till they wear the look and form 
Of better things, and right names are reversed, 
No adulation can so far prevail 
That what the mindless many think to be, 
Forthwith becomes, upright and honourable. 
Can they impart to actions that are foul 
The hue of moral beauty? That which makes 
Ethical beauty is a quality 
Fixed and determinate beyond the power 
Of despot, or all potentates combined, 
To alter or corrupt. But now, forsooth, 
Scarce one of the rude rabble but assumes 
The more illiterate the more arrogant 



JEPHTHAH 63 

Authority to settle mooted points 

Of darkest question ; and inflexibly, 

As ignorance is wont, maintains the truth 

Of the opinion he has once embraced. 

Nor does he weigh withal, or care to weigh, 

In a just balance whether the things he holds 

So stubbornly be right or wrong ; and while 

Blinder than all around he stumbles on, 

Blindly he rates with blindness those who see. 

As to the parched and fever-burning lip 

Sweet things are sour ; and the delirious mind * 

Deems its wild incoherencies the voice 

Of sober wisdom, then most self-assured 

When it raves wildest even so, enwrapt 

In the dark folds of intellectual night, 

Ye would command where reason bids obey ; 

And those whom it were fit ye took as guides 

Ye urge, in faring forth, to follow you, 

Till, rashly steering through the perilous brine, 

They shatter on the rocks their stout-built keel. 

'Tis true religion and true piety 

To worship God, not by such ordinances 

As thine own erring fantasy may frame ; 

Nor yet by offering in sacrifice 

* Alternatively thus, taking sapere and desi.pere in their primary 
sense, which, however, is not usual, and in the case of the latter is 
very rare : 

Sweet things are sour, yet the perverted taste 
Is sure of its discernment ; surest then 
When most in error even so, enwrapt, etc. 



64 SACRED DRAMAS 

Such victim as caprice may bid thee burn; 
But by such only as his high behests, 
From heaven delivered, in his law prescribe, 
And our ancestral customs ratify. 

JEPH. Whate'er is done sincerely is to God 
Well pleasing, and he ever well approves 
The gifts that from a guileless heart proceed. 
Tis not the gifted gold the giver's mind 
Is that which Heaven regardeth. 

PR. In the main : 

But if the obliquity of an evil mind 
Distort things that are straight, and view them wrong, 
The folly and purblindness of the man 
Can never rectify his crooked deeds, 
The right intention righting everything. 
Well meant, ill done, is common; but the phrase 
Carries no vindication wrong is wrong. 
The things thou namest guileless, honest, right, 
By thee so deemed, are phantasies, are things 
Of wildest unreality unless 

Something perchance there may be wilder still 
And more deluding than to close the eyes 
Against the light of truth. This hast thou done ; 
And, fallen into blindness self-induced, 
Thou seekest honour even in thy crime, 
Adorning it with fair and sounding names. 
O, thou removest all landmarks of things 
By thus asserting that unjust or just, 
And fair or foul, are qualities that depend 



JEPHTHAH 65 

On the opinion of the inconstant crowd ! 

But if so great a potency reside 

In the collective wisdom of mere fools 

That they can change at will unjust to just, 

Give sacredness to rank profanity, 

And interchange the right and wrong of things 

Why not believe they also have the power 

Fire into flood to turn, and flood to fire ; 

And to the cold, still bosom of the dead 

Restore the living breath ? Why may they not 

Arrest the flight of the swift-wheeling hours, 

And bind the hands of ever-working change ? 

But if thou reckon such things far removed 

Beyond the power of mortals, and controlled 

By the Great Founder of the world alone, 

Esteem the laws, which he has once ordained, 

Ordained and fixed no less enduringly, 

And placed for ever beyond mortal sway. 

The final hour that o'er the world impends 

Shall not annul his edicts. Heaven and earth, 

And air and ocean, all shall be dissolved 

In the last conflagration. But the Law, 

Divinely given on the cloudy top 

Of thunder-riven Sinai mark it well 

No lapse of lengthening time shall take from it 

The tip of an iota. 

JEPH. Speed ye on 

With such contentions, if ye will, for me, 
Ye who delight to be esteemed of men 



66 SACRED DRAMAS 

The high-priests of all wisdom. More to me 
Simple and foolish truth than the false glare 
Of godless learning tricked with sophistries. 



CHORUS 

O matron, raised to prosperous height, 

As few have been in Hebrew story, 
Swiftly and with ruthless spite 

Fortune hath brought ruin o'er thee ' 
Fallen, fallen to the dust 

The head that touched the starry sphere 
Sudden, a night-black tempest's gust, 

All-darkening where all was clear, 
Hath hurled thee low where thou dost lie, 
And wrung thy heart with agony. 

Alas, how little man can know 
What to pursue or what forgo! 
Brave warrior, but yestereve 
What living man but did believe 
Thy glory enviably great ? 
All things conspired to make thy state, 
Beyond whate'er thy thought could be, 
A wonder of felicity : 
Ancestral lustre, wedded bliss, 
A daughter lovely as thine is, 
And high renown in battle won 
By deeds heroic nobly done 



JEPHTHAH 07 

When, lo, an avalanche hath rushed 
With sudden ruin down, and crushed 
Thy envied joys : and now so low 
Hath brought thee that thy deadliest foe 
Perforce must pity thee ; and thou, 
Brooding o'er thy hapless vow, 
With many a sad, lamenting moan 
Fillest the star-illumined dome. 

Doubtless, it is the enfolding cloud 
Of error, as a dark-spun shroud, 
And ignorance, wrapt in loathly gloom, 
That thus the human mind entomb. 
There lives not 'neath this azure sky 
A man whose clear-discerning eye 
Can mark the pure unsullied ray 
Of Truth ; not one to tread the way 
Where forthright Virtue onward leads 
With open mien and open deeds. 
But, as the dim and scanty light, 
That half dispels the lingering night 
From underneath the leafy boughs 
Of the deep forest, dimly shows 
In interlaced perplexing maze 
The windings of a thousand ways 
That wind and part so endlessly 
The traveller knows not which to try, 
And wanders in the forest dim 
All paths become alike to him : 



68 SACRED DRAMAS 

So in life's journey still we stray, 
Uncertain where to choose our way. 

Impatient of inactive ease, 
The warrior roams o'er lands and seas, 
To buy with blood that bathes the plain, 
And tears of those who weep the slain, 
A name in accents brief renowned 
Ere night and silence close around. 
Another, whose unfruitful bed 
No heir to his great wealth has bred, 
Compensates his lone, childless hearth, 
With musings full of cynic mirth 
With troops of suitors throngs his hall. 
Wily intriguers one and all 
And gaily thinks, When I am dead, 
Not one shall on my flesh be fed 
Of all these vultures that distend 
Expectant beaks, and wait my end. 
To yet a third 'tis sweet to hear, 
Growing and lessening on the ear, 
The cradle's slumberous murmurings, 
And childhood's lisped and prattled things. 
'Tis bliss to the fond parent's heart, 
Deep bliss with which he would not part 
For all the wealth of Croesus old, 
Or all the sands of yellow gold 
That limpid Hermus down hath rolled 
To the resounding bay : 



JEPHTHAH 69 

Yet never man since time began 
Has lived upon so wise a plan 
As not his own designs to ban 

Perchance thrice in a day. 

And, lo, where comes the hapless maiden, 
Foul her cheeks with briny tears : 
And the poor mother, sorrow-laden, 
Woe-worn at her side appears ! 
Alas, how little like to those 
Who late were the observed of all! 
If yet the tear of pity flows, 
O let it o'er their sorrows fall ! 

The tidings brought of victory, 
The glory won, upraised them high ; 
So blest they seemed that nought could be 
Suradded of felicity. 
But yesterday, none envied so ; 
To-day, how pitied ! laid how low ! 
Example, for all time to be, 
Of earthly mutability. 
Our joys are but a dust-cloud driven 
By eddying gusts athwart the heaven 
So lightly fixed, so soon uptossed 
We call them ours, and they are lost. 
Or like the hail, by wintry blast 
On the lone mountain summits cast ; 



70 SACKED DRAMAS 

Glistening and white it lies deep-piled 

O'er crag and scaur and heathland wild : 

Soon as the rosy east is red, 

And the sun lifts his radiant head, 

Scattering aslant his fiery beam 

O'er hill and holt and rushing stream, 

The glistening mantle, far and near, 

Dissolves, and hastes to disappear. 

So pass the joys to men are given; 

Such the high ordinance of Heaven. 

STORGE, JEPHTHAH, IPHIS 

STO. O vain and mocking hopes! For thee, my 

child, 

I spread the nuptial banquet, and I chid 
The laggard time that kept from me the day 
When in all welfare I should look on thee 
Wed to a worthy lord, and at thy knees 
Sweet children clustering. I pictured thee 
The pillar and the solace of mine age, 
When with frail steps I should move feebly on 
Toward my last rest, and with thy gentle aid 
Should gently reach it. And it was but dreams ! 
Ah me, my daughter, 'twas but dreams I dreamed 
Delusive dreams, that charmed me long, but now 
Are turned to bitterness. For, with cruel spite 
And why, I know not, if it be not mirth 
And sport to her to thwart our purposes 



JEPHTHAH 71 

Remorseless, giving to fury its full course, 
Fortune has swooped on me, and from the height, 
The very topmost height, of earthly bliss 
Has hurled me down insulting. One fierce rush 
Has overthrown me headlong, utterly. 

Thrice happy ye, whose children have been reft 
By foeman's sword, or pestilence, or plague, 
Or wasting famine ; in whose long-wept tears 
No sense of crime is mingled, and who lay 
On other hands your sorrows. But, alas, 
In this one crime our evil hap has mixed 
The essence of a hundred in this one ! 
Her father is the murderer of his child ; 
Religion's dread solemnities are turned 
To wickedness abhorred ; the altar smokes 
With the warm blood of human sacrifice, 
As in the lands that worship idols grim. 
O, are religion's rites approved above, 
Not done religiously and with holy awe ? 
Canst thou believe it ? Nay, if thou canst believe 
The favour of high Heaven is won to thee 
By barbarous cruelty, strike yet again, 
And mingle horribly in one red stream 
Thy daughter's blood and mine. 

JEPH. Our hapless lot 

Too much enfolds of bitterness of its own 
To bear access of evil. W'herefore cease 
To enflame thyself and me with burning taunts. 
They never can recall the past, or bring 

LL? 




72 SACRED DRAMAS 

Abatement to our sorrow. Over all 
Calamity has cruel power to wound : 
To us chiefly to me the wound it brings 
Is more exceeding. Heavy is the load 
Of grief that lies on you ; but ye sustain 
The burden with the strength of innocence : 
While, as for me, my misery and crime 
Are fiercely linked together for this deed 
Perforce must make me miserablest of men. 
Nor can the burden I must bear be borne 
Without the upbraiding voices of my crime 
For ever murmuring in me ; and alone 
I am compelled to do and to endure 
A hideous thing. 

STO. Compelled no otherwise 

Than as it is by choice and wilfulness. 

JEPH. Would that it lay at my arbitrament, 
And 'twere not wicked to renounce a vow. 

STO. A wicked vow is not approved of Heaven. 

JEPH. Mine was approved ; the battle won is proof. 

STO. What? Canst thou promise that which is not 
thine ? 

JEPH. Is not my daughter mine ? 

STO. Thine wholly, no ! 

Thine is she even so as mine she is, 
No otherwise ; pledge of our wedded love. 
Because thou art her father, hast thou power 
At thy sole will to slay her, and I none 
To guard a life that is so largely mine? 



JEPHTHAH 73 

O, were it lawful to make children o'er 
To either parent's absolute control, 
lAnd thus by an unhallowed schism rend 
T'he bond of wedded union then, methinks, 
Reason would urge the mother's stronger claim 
Source of her infant's welfare, and who now, 
Armed with a right as strong as nature's law, 
Would snatch her girl from a stern father's hand 
Who dooms her to destruction. O, 'tis hard. 
What ? If thy daughter were to-day a bride, 
And nuptial torches in blithe maidens' hands 
Were this night to conduct her to her home, 
Should we not both alike have bent our thoughts 
Upon our child's concernments ? But, alas, 
The marriage yoke presses unequally ; 
The stronger yoke-mate arrogates too much. 
The mother may not save her own sweet child; 
The father may ordain it to be lost, 
Lost in the grave for ever if indeed 
He loses what his own free choice casts forth 
What his own ruthless hand bereaves of life 
Over whose prone and bleeding corse he stands 
Complacent, glorying in the parade 
Of his wild work of butchery. Ah me! 
What loss to him who, while he thus unbolts 
The exit of the soul, and through her side 
With sharp and cruel steel makes open way, 
And plucks her spirit forth from where it lurks 
Deep in her vitals, studies all the while 



74 SACRED DRAMAS 

To be seen and marked, and needs no comforting ? 

Comforting ! name it not ; there is h igh praise 

For parricide like this, and high renown 

In the wild dagger-thrust that seeks her heart 

And crimsons with a daughter's blood his hand ! 

O argue not the horror of the deed ! 

An air of sad religion veils it well, 

Hiding the horror under Duty's guise ; 

And the great crime is guerdoned with great fame ! 

But if there be no longer in thy breast 
A parent's heart, and maddening thoughts have gained 
Wild mastery over thee, O yet at least 
Permit a mother's fondness still to love 
That which to love not were a monstrous thing ; 
To save that which 'twere wicked to destroy 
That which spontaneously to betray 
Were worse than parricide that which to kill 
With one's own hand were an atrocity 
No ravening beast could match that roams the wilds 
To rend and to devour. If the dear pledge 
Of our commutual love were to be shared, 
We have made unfair partition. 'Tis unfair 
That thou shouldst use her life and wrongly use 
Her death at thine own pleasure, and to me 
Should fall but grief and sorrow, sighs and tears. 

O harder than the cold and flinty rock! 
Or offspring shall I name thee of the oak 
Stubborn and gnarled, or of the granite crags 
Where wild beasts have their dens ! thou in whose veins 



JEPHTHAH 75 

There runs no lingering drop of kindred blood 

Whose heart is alien to humanity 

Thy daughter weeps before thee ; lo, my tears 

Cease not, and on the countenance of all 

Around thee thou canst mark a sombre cloud 

Of grief and pity ; but, woe worth the day ! 

Gives this stern immolator of his child one moan 

To witness there is sorrow in his soul ? 

Why fall'st thou not, child, at thy father's feet? 

O, if thou canst by prayers or tears prevail, 

Melt his hard heart, and bend his iron will. 

IPH. Have pity, O my father ! By this hand 
That crowned thy vow and won thee victory, 
I pray thy pity. If in infant days 
I pleased thee well, and drew thy heart to me : 
If e'er, with little arms enclasped around, 
I hung upon thy neck, and thou wast glad 
To feel the pendent burden; if I gave thee 
Solace and joy in good and evil days, 
Endearing all thy home O cast away, 
Cast far from thee, this purposed cruelty ; 
And let the horror which now chills our hearts 
Pass from thy thoughts for ever! But if aught 
Of wrong-doing toward thee be found in me, 
O hide it not ! It will be lightlier borne, 
Whatever now awaits me, when I know 
My doom is just. Avertest thou thy face ! 
Unhappy me, how am I so abhorred 
My father can no longer look on me? 



76 SACRED DRAMAS 

JEPH. In thee, my daughter, is no wrong-doing 
Mine, and mine only, is the crime ; and thou, 
Though innocent, must bear the penalty 
Of my rash act. By a most guilty vow, 
Both thee and me alike I have undone, 
My hapless daughter. O that I had been 
More guarded in my words, or in the field 
Been less successful and that, stricken down 
By foeman's spear amid the weltering heaps 
Of gallant men piled where the battle raged, 
I there had found an honourable grave, 
And gained the sheltering haven ere my woes 
Had grown to such a tempest. But I live, 
Survivor of war's perils, though to me 
Life is not sweet but bitter, and reserves 
Nought for me now but sorrows ever new 
And still succeeding sorrows. Think me not 
Cruel and unconcerned. I swear to thee 
By this accursed vow which I have bound, 
With Heaven's displeasure, on me ; by the ills 
Accumulated o'er me ; by the thoughts, 
Ever with anguish present to my soul, 
Of thy calamity ; by all I swear, 
If by a substituted death thy death 
Could be averted, gladly would I give 
My life to ransom thine. Can I be deemed 
Aught happier than ye ? 

IPH. Alike with us, 

Or deeper still, engulfed in misery. 



JEPHTHAH 77 

STO. Since this poor suppliant has no power to move 
A father's pity,, I thy wedded wife 
Entreat of thee my wedded lord this one, 
This last petition : Bid me die with her ! 
If thou dost love me, count the gain as mine, 
But if thou hate me, count the gain thine own, 
Death brings with it : so shall my sorrows close, 
And nevermore my voice molest thine ear. 

JEPH. One victim has too much attending crime. 

STO. O holy man, righteous, and innocent ! 
He shrinks from sin and immolates his child ! 

IPH. O my loved mother, cease thy plaints and 

tears, 

Cease thy reproaches, taunts, and murmurings ; 
And thou, my father, cast from thee the care 
That sits so heavy on thy anxious brow\ 
Nor for my death enforced let bitter words 
Pass and repass between you. That thou art 
Unwillingly, by strong compulsion, driven 
To do this deed is seen from many things 
Thy present deep dejectedness ; the love, 
The too-indulgent love, of former days ; 
And, on my part, a mind which blames me not 
With crime that merits death, and least of all 
Death by thy hand. Wherefore, be what it may 
This hard necessity compels thee to, 
I now resist no more. The life I owe 
To thee, my father, and to this dear land 
That gave me birth, I willingly restore. 



78 SACRED DRAMAS 

And of thee, mother, this request I make 
I who shall make request of thee again 
No more for ever : let not gloomy thoughts 
Toward my father harbour in thy breast 
Because of me ; and give to memories 
Of evils past no voice. O, if the dead 
That in the hollow tomb are laid to rest 
Do still retain, haply as fitful dreams 
That flit athwart their long sepulchral sleep, 
A cognizance of things in after days 
Done in the sunlit world of living men 
Believe 'twill give me in the realm of shades, 
If aught can give, a deep and pure delight 
To know that ye are happy, that your years 
Flow on in prosperous current, and that you, 
My parents, unto whom, had I lived on, 
It should have been my privilege and my care 
The large debt of my childhood to repay, 
And render back kind offices received, 
Propping the feebleness of your old age 
Have not, in sad exchange, derived from me 
Sorrow and grief, embittering all your days. 

STO. Would God, if Heaven frown not on the 

prayer, 

That Ammon still were lord, and Israel still 
Bore the long-burdening yoke. Although enthralled, 
Thou yet hadst lived; or, dying, it had not been 
A death like this, accursed and abhorred. 
Milder had been the cruelty and rage 



JEPHTHAH 79 

Of foemen than thy father's victory ; 
And, by a strange and lamentable freak, 
We yearn to bear the yoke, and our defeat 
Had saved us from disaster. Cruel still, 

Fortune, even in thy favouring gifts 
Still cruel to us, at what usury 

Of bitter grief and weeping thou hast lent 
A short-lived joy ! 

IPH. Nay, better that they bear 

Just vengeance, and that we, if so we must, 
Hallow the altar with offenceless blood, 
And with one victim thus, of free accord 
And with a grateful heart, requite to Heaven 
The slaughter of so many thousand foes. 

JEPH. Alas, my daughter, now I comprehend 
How cruel, foul, and horrible a thing 
My purpose stands affirmed to. Woe is me, 
Rashly to self-bereave me of a child 
Such as thou art approved. But on myself 

1 will avenge me ; for it is unjust 

A maiden wholly blameless, as thou art, 

Should of my madness brook the deadly fruit, 

And I, the cause of all this woe, live on. 

Myself I will endure the penalty 

Of my own folly ; nor in the after time 

Shall they that dwell around me, in their hate, 

Cast this reproach on me, that in the close 

And sunset of my life I spared myself 

And slew my daughter and with blood so near, 



80 SACRED DRAMAS 

So lightly valued by me, purchased fame, 

Inglorious fame, dishonoured, sullied, scorned. 

But thou, who shouldst be heir to lengthening years, 

Live long, live happy in thy loyalty 

Toward thy father and thy fatherland ; 

And the return which I can never make 

May Heaven richly grant thee ; it is there, 

In heaven, lies thy requital. 

IPH. O my father, 

Break not my heart with words of tenderness, 
Nor meditate delay. It must not be 
That thou assume the function which is mine : 
Me the vow claims, me only, and none else. 
I therefore willingly give back my life, 
Father, to thee and to the fatherland ; 
Nor ever, while day follows day to mark 
The lapse of time, shall it be said of me, 
I am unworthy of my name and race : 
And I am Jephthah's daughter. Have me hence : 
Bid lead me forth. My closing hour is come, 
And my soul grows into a strange accord; 
An altar-feeling in me draws me on, 
And reconciles me to the altar-fires. 
To death devoted, I embrace my doom, 
And count the minutes long till it shall come 
And waft my soul to heaven in hallowed flames. 
() Earth, no more I live to thee ; no more 
The daylight glads me, nor the sweet return 
Of morn and eve. The altar waits for me, 



JEPHTHAH 81 

And I await, ill brooking all delay, 
The rite that wraps me in my shroud of fire. 
And now, my mother, O how dear to me ! 
Farewell ; farewell, my home where I have passed 
My days in gladness, tenderly upbrought 
To ample hopes, and destined so 'twas deemed 
To leave thee as a blithe and honoured bride. 
Ye Powers above, that fix the fates of men! 
And ye, my dead forefathers ! grant, I pray, 
To her who died for the deliverance 
Of her dear native land, her land and yours, 
Gentle and kindly welcome to her shade ! 
And thou, light of this sun, the last mine eyes 
Shall ever look upon, farewell ! farewell ! 

CHORUS 

Maiden, that to womankind 
Bringest honour, bringest fame; 
Of a too undaunted mind 
To falter where 'twere hard to blame : 
Glory of a noble line, 
Thy lot is fall'n on evil days, 
And thy golden tresses twine 
At once the cypress and the bays. 
But though remorseless Fate has clipt 
The sweetest of thy years away, 
And with cruel fingers nipt 
The blossom of thy vernal day ; 



82 SACRED DRAMAS 

The years of life thus reft from thee 
Shall all be added to thy fame, 
And many a mournful elegy 
Shall long repeat thy tragic name. 
Thy name shall spread to many a land, 
Shall reach even where the Orient beam 
Strikes fiercely down on India's strand 
Or flames o'er Ganges' sacred stream. 
In ages that are yet afar 
The dweller by the springs of Nile, 
Or he who in Sarmatian car, 
The ice-wind piercing him the while, 
Drives fearless o'er the waves congealed 
That bridge the Danube's rushing tide, 
Shall in their lays remembrance yield 
Of her who for her country died ; 
And praise thy courage undismayed 
By numbing terror of the grave, 
When on the altar thou wast laid, 
A maiden, yet as warrior brave. 
Long shalt thou to our maidens be 
A pride and sorrow ; year by year 
Sad dirges shall they chant to thee 
With wailing voice and many a tear; 
And at the low funereal heap 
Where thy loved dust is laid to rest 
The gathering maiden-troops shall weep 
As if they wept upon thy breast: 



JEPHTHAH 83 

Unmindful of their own repose, 
Sweet rest shall they invoke for her, 
The hero-hearted one, who chose 
Death and a patriot's sepulchre. 

But ye, the opprobrium of your land, 
Craven in heart and slack of hand, 
Too craven and unnerved by fear 
To meet the thrust of hostile spear, 
And in your country's cause to yield 
Your life-blood on the battlefield 
Your name and memory shall die 
And buried in oblivion lie : 
Eternal darkness and the shame 
Of all who share your race and name, 
And an incumbent load of earth 
Shall hide all knowledge of your birth 
Ye caitiffs, whom this age doth spurn, 
Whose names no future age shall learn ' 

STORGE, MESSENGER 

STO. O breaking heart! is then the last dim ray 
Of hope extinct and lost? Tell forth thy tale. 

MES. For thing so piteous, there might have been 
A still more piteous ending. 

STO. Aught of good, 

If it befell, 'twas Fortune's cruelty ; 
For false and cruel are her blandishments, 



84 SACRED DRAMAS 

And she has skill to blend her poisoned cup 

With a deceitful sweetness. Underneath 

Thy words there lies a sorrow yet untold: 

Tell it whate'er it be ; for grief is grown 

Habitual with me, and endurance long 

Has dulled the edge of pain. In Fortune's hand 

Nothing is left to strike a sharper wound 

Than are the wounds I bear. Of this assured, 

I stand prepared for all that yet may come, 

Grief-worn, grief-frozen into apathy, 

And strong to suffer numbly, come what will. 

MES. Hear then in brief how passed the closing 

scene. 

When at the altar steps the maiden stood, 
As the appointed victim now displayed 
Unwont to meet the gaze of men, who there 
Gazed on her crowding maiden modesty 
O'er her wan cheeks alas, how pale and wan! 
Suffused a glowing crimson; as if one 
Should stain the purest ivory of Ind 
With dye of Tyrian shell, or intermix 
With the red rose the lilies white as snow. 
But o'er her countenance, mingling with that blush 
And visible to every eye, there shone 
A fixed unfaltering purpose, and, alone 
Tearless amid the weeping, meek she stood, 
Serenely calm, and to her fate resigned. 
The maiden, death so nigh, wept not a tear ; 
Beholders wept for pity all that crowd, 



JEPHTHAH 85 

Swayed by one strong emotion. Some recalled 

The warrior's high emprise, the broken yoke 

Of foreign domination, the lone hearth 

Of the deliverer. Others bewailed 

The bitter change of lot, the transient joy 

Purchased with lasting grief, the treachery 

Of happy-seeming things. And others wept 

To mark her bloom of youth, and eyes that shone 

Clear as twin stars behind a white-rimmed cloud, 

And the profusion of her golden hair 

Twined with the lingering sunbeam, and her firm 

Intrepid bearing, far beyond the strain 

Of woman's nature. And perchance on her 

Nature had breathed a beauty that excelled, 

To dignify with her supremest gifts 

The obsequies of the heroic maid. 

As the descending glory of the sun, 

When speeds his fiery orb to sink below 

The western ocean, all the waves ablaze 

Under his dipping rim, is beautiful 

More than the light of other sunlit hours ; 

Or as the hue and fragrance of the rose 

That lingers latest of the blooming year 

Compels the sense and holds the eye enthralled 

With a peculiar power; even so this maid, 

Her foot upon the threshold of her doom, 

To death addressed, and resolute to die, 

Not weakly shrinking nor with craven fear 

Benumbed in presence of the closing scene, 



86 SACRED DRAMAS 

Had deeply moved beholders, and had drawn 
The eyes of the whole multitude, who gazed 
Awe-struck and wondering ; and every voice 
Was hushed in saddened silence. 

STO. Nay, proceed ; 

Tell out the accomplished horror; need is none 
To spare a mother's sorrows. Thou hast nought 
So mournful and heartrending to rehearse 
But my presaging soul still worse portrays 
Than thou canst utter. All is now foreseen. 

MES. Then raised the hero-maid her eyes to 

heaven, 

And with meek lips and voice that trembled not 
Even in that cruel hour, she thus began. 

Maker of all things, Father of mankind, 
Eternal God, at length thy love restore, 
Forgive thy people's errors, and accept 
This offering in thy great benignity. 
O, if to turn away thy enkindled wrath 
An expiating victim needs must die, 
Lo, here I stand! let the avenging stroke 
Fall on me, on me only, and the guilt 
Of proud and stubborn revolt from thee 
Be rased and quitted by the life I give. 
Ah, gladly, were it so, would I full oft 
Pour forth my blood ; and if therein were laid 
The sole deliverance of my father's house 
And of my nation, gladly would I thus 
Arrest the dreadful onrush of thy wrath, 



JEPHTHAH 87 

Though I should die as now a thousand times, 
Slain for the altar-fire. And now, O priest, 
Thine office claims thee ; do it speedily. 
Nay, fear not for he shook, with horror chilled 
Approach, and bid this soul pass from the light ; 
Unbolt the hindering prison-door of flesh, 
And from the vow set free all whom it binds, 
Myself, my father, and the fatherland. 

As thus she spoke, he who had seemed so stern, 
So cruel, reckless even of kindred blood, 
And fiercer than the spotted tiger, crouched 
To bound upon its prey, now wept amain ; 
And, blaming bitterly his fatal vow, 
Covered his eyes deep in his mantle folds. 

Dread office ! All unnerved, unmanned, the priest 
Could scarce unstop the outlets of the soul ; 
And long the silent crowd looked on aghast, 
In speechless pity. But when voice returned 
And found full utterance, it was not a sound 
Of moaning and lamenting such as comes 
Of hearts surcharged with grief, but from their midst, 
Confused, a murmur of relief rose high ; 
And many kindly voices spoke of thee 
As one between the blandishments and blows 
Of treacherous Fortune ; with her rarest gifts 
Caressed to-day, to-morrow crushed and scorned 
That justly might be named, in thy sole self, 
At once the happiest and most miserable 



88 SACRED DRAMAS 

Of womankind. For be it that her wounds 
Have cleft thee to the marrow, deep and sore, 
Yet hast thou given thee solace with thy grief 
Great as thy sorrow. 

STO. Solace, is it not, 

More sad and mournful than the grief it soothes ? 
One that by mitigating aggravates, 
And, by recalling ever and again 
The memory of my anguish, needs must cause 
My closing wounds to rend and bleed anew? 
The more of dauntless fortitude displayed 
In face of such a death of violence, 
The greater and more poignant is the grief 
Shall pierce my soul till this heart too is cold. 



THE END 



THE BAPTIST 

OR 

CALUMNY 



DRAMATIS PERSONS 

Prologue. 

MALCHUS, a Pharisee. 
GAMALIEL, a Pharisee. 
JOHN THE BAPTIST. 
Chorus of Jews. 
HEROD, the King. 
HERODIAS, the Queen. 
THE QUEEN'S DAUGHTER. 
A Messenger. 



THE BAPTIST; OR, CALUMNY 



PROLOGUE 

BARDS of old time, in many a fabled lay, 

Tell wondrous tales of Proteus, who at will 

Could take what shape he pleased, and whom no bands 

Had force to bind : for how indeed bind fast 

The slippery essence which this moment seemed 

Corporeal and the next would melt away 

Into the liquid waves, as if it were 

But part of the vast waters ? Vain the thought 

By cord or chain to bind the elusive form 

Which now would hiss a bickering flame, now roar 

A lordly lion to the echoing woods ; 

Or growl in forest gloom a shaggy bear ; 

Or as a rooted oak spread wide his boughs, 

Rustling with all his leaves ; or in the brake, 

A seeming serpent, coil his painted folds. 

Sayest thou, 'tis myth and fable? I have found 
The fable truer than the oracular leaves 
Of Cumae's Sibyl. For methinks I see 
As many Protean shapes as I see men 



92 SACRED DRAMAS 

Around me in the world, so nimble they 
To glide out of the semblance of themselves, 
And mock the eye in new delusive forms. 

Tis hard such minds unstable should control, 
With influence malign, the scenic stage. 
For, mark them well, those Proteans : if the play 
Spring from the record of days long gone by, 
They mar it with disturbing noises ; 
They cough, they groan, as if the stale, old theme 
Were sickening to their fastidious souls. 
But if the mimic scene set forth to view 
Things modern or of the hour, forthwith the Old 
Is what they praise, they love, they clamour for, 
The old time-honoured deeds of world-renown, 
That live undimmed on History's pictured page ; 
And with the false distaste of stunted minds, 
Or ever they can know what 'tis they scorn, 
They scorn the new, and hiss it from the stage. 
Things written worthily and well they spoil, 
Interpreting with malice ; not a line 
They wrong not. Sunk in indolence and sleep, 
Wasting ignoble days of slothful ease, 
They grudge the guerdon won by noble toils, 
And spend their strength, the little strength they 

spend, 

In search of faults to censure or decry. 
And if some slip there be, not Lynceus' self 
Had eye so keen, and the poor speck stands forth 



THE BAPTIST 93 

Exposed by broad condemnatory stroke : 
All else, however finely thought or said, 
They pass unheedingly. The puckered brows, 
And crabbed show of critical contempt, 
Of such as these 1 reck not ; not a jot. 

But if there be a fair and candid judge, 
And friendly to the task we now essay 
To give to lettered toils a purer strain ; 
One who does not withhold the stimulus 
Of honest plaudits ; and, since nothing born 
Of the mind of man is faultless, mildly yields 
To venial sins an easy absolution 
To him we bring a theme that's new, or rather 
A tale of ancient time in new attire ; 
How, in the olden time, a man of God, 
The Baptist, hunted down by sceptred lust 
And crafty slanders of his enviers, 
Was vilely slain though guiltless of all wrong. 
In sooth, it is a tale which one may call 
Or old or new at pleasure ; for if things 
Be ancient that befell in ancient times, 
In the far distant ages of the world, 
Full ancient is the matter of our play. 
But if a thing that ever holds a place 
Amid the freshest stores of memory 
Be reckoned new, our theme is new indeed, 
A tale of our own period. For while men 
Shall live on earth wiles ever new shall spring, 



94 SACRED DRAMAS 

New slanders shall be launched, and villainous hate 
Crush men of worth ; might shall o'ermaster right, 
And innocence still be the prey of guile. 

MALCHUS AND GAMALIEL, RABBIS; CHORUS 

MAL. O troubled eld, and thou fast-nearing bound 
Where I shall breathe my latest breath ; and ye, 
O Powers, that as ye list grant weal or woe 
Unkind to me, unkind! have ye prolonged 
My term of life beyond the common span 
Only for this, that I might live to see 
My country's servitude, and, sadder far, 
The hallowed courts trodden by feet profane, 
And idol-symbols in the temple of God ? 
And I have seen the unentered Oracle 
Profaned by Gentile gaze ; the beaten gold 
From door and doorpost by the spoiler torn : 
All that Gabinius with rapacious hand 
Could grasp, or Antony's luxuriousness 
Swallow in its wild vortex, all is gone. 
Nay, shame to think! our substance has been made 
The sport of Cleopatra's banquetings. 
And, that humiliation might not lack 
One pang of bitterness, a tyrant grim, 
Herod, great-grandson of Antipater 
A semi- Arab, sits upon the throne; 
Edom rules over Judah, Sion serves 
A tribute-gatherer, Jerusalem 



THE BAPTIST 95 

Obeys a stranger to her holy rites, 

And God's own people are made subject to 

A godless alien. Yet amid the wounds 

Many and deep of this ill-fated land, 

And bitter though it be to stoop the neck 

Beneath a foreign yoke, and breathe no more 

The air of freedom, something still was left, 

Some lingering ember of extinguished greatness, 

Some trace of our peculiar heaven-born lore, 

From which our very foes could not withhold 

Their veneration. The fierce conqueror, 

With all his proud disdain, and the more part 

Of Rome's empurpled senators, began 

To honour and revere our Jewish laws. 

Hope woke in us, long weary and borne down 

With miseries, and gave us heart again. 

But scarcely had we raised our drooping head 

When suddenly a dreadful portent bursts 

Upon our view, undreaded and undreamed. 

Lo, where the Baptist comes ! and o'er the hills 

Of Judah rolls the thunder of his voice 

Announcing new, denouncing ancient, things ! 

No son is this of parentage profane, 

Nor nurtured amid alien rites abhorred ; 

By blood he is our own, of Levi's tribe, 

From dedicated infancy the Lord's : 

A priest his father, and himself a priest 

Soon to become, so had he not preferred 

To snatch the sour fruits of a forced renown, 



96 SACRED DRAMAS 

And been content, in fitting time though late, 
To reap the meed of honourable fame. 

Thus, haunting hermit-wise and solitary 
The lone recesses of sequestered hills, 
He dupes with show of sanctity severe 
The dull and undiscerning multitude. 
His shaggy locks and raiment of rough skins, 
His food wild-gathered in the wilderness, 
And trickeries of like kind, have drawn to nim 
The eyes and gaze of all men. 'Tis believed 
And currently that a new prophet has, 
Unheralded, arisen to the world. 
Already the rude herd crowd on his steps 
And hang upon him wheresoe'er he goes ; 
From town and hamlet flocking they troop forth, 
Cities deserted, and the desert thronged. 
'Tis he alone the people now regard ; 
Nobles caress him, kings have him in awe. 

And who so proud as he! The adulation 
And folly of the senseless rout have crazed him. 
New statutes gives he, like another Moses, 
And dares to expiate sins and darkest crimes 
With lustral water, and to adulterate 
Our ancient laws with new observances. 
And the more easily to win and hold 
The popular favour, with opprobrious terms 
He lashes, sparing none, our dignitaries, 
Vituperation finding greedy ears. 



THE BAPTIST 97 

Thus then it stands : if this stout robber-knave, 
Foaming with insolent audacity, 
Be not encountered, and his enterprise 
Resisted and arrested, then farewell 
The holiness o'er all the world renowned! 
Soon will it pass from us ; 'tis passing now ; 
Nay, it is past and gone. 

GAM. It best befits 

Our office to determine nothing rashly ; 
And aged fathers, in life's evening-calm, 
To all men should be gentle. In the young 
Rashness may be forgiven, but what plea 
Would cover our offence should we offend ? 
Restrain thine anger, curb thy impulses, 
And bid the passion of thy grief assuage. 

MAL. Thou too, methinks, Gamaliel, dost approve 
In thine own heart this wild blasphemer's ways. 

GAM. Malchus, not so ; I nor approve nor blame 
Before I know the kind of thing I judge. 
Touching this preacher, nought I yet have heard 
Convicts him as a man of evil mind, 
Or one that ought to sink beneath a load 
Of public infamy. 

MAL. O earth! O heaven! 

O stars of light ! this wretch lacks not a friend 
Who will defend him and not shame to say 
That he is not the bad man that he is ! 

GAM. No bad man he, who teaches well-doing, 
And censures vice and foremost treads the path 



98 SACRED DRAMAS 

Which he bids others follow : thou wilt not 
Persuade me otherwise. 

MAL. No good man he, 

Who spurns at legalized authority, 
Teaches new dogmas, practises new rites, 
Rails at the appointed rulers of the land, 
Reviles the priesthood : O, thou never wilt 
Persuade me otherwise. 

GAM. Ah, if we were 

As stern and rigorous judges of ourselves 
As we are harsh ones oft of other men, 
Less open would our shameful deeds be laid 
To popular invective. 'Tis too true 
Flatter ourselves we may, and in the haunts 
Of men be lauded as if bless'd of God, 
And popularly deemed the elect of heaven. 
Upright, true-hearted, virtuous, holy men ; 
Yet over all our order rests the stain 
Of darkest vices. 

MAL. Grant it so, Gamaliel ; 

Still, is it fit the populace should revile, 
Or any turbulent knaye among them all 
Revile, the constituted powers ? The crowd 
Are born to hear, obey, be orderly, 
And patiently submit to curb and rein. 
The ruler, if the people err, must guide them, 
Gently or sternly, to the path again ; 
They guide not him his will to him is law 
And if he err, there is a God to mark 



THE BAPTIST 99 

The wrong-doer and punish him. 

GAM. And this 

You think a fair arrangement? 

MAL. Thoroughly. 

GAM. How can it be ? 

MAL. Because the populace 

Inherently are ignorant and rash, 
Wrong-headed, blundering, and incapable : 
They ever were so. 

GAM. Yet you oft may chance 

On men sprung from their bosom, cottage-born, 
In wisdom and capacity the peers 
Of kings and nobles. 

MAL. Sayest thou ? then 'twere well 

We left our chair to seat base shepherd clowns. 

GAM. Moses was once a shepherd ; David fed 
The flocks of Jesse in his native fields. 

MAL. The Spirit of God gave them enlightenment, 
And made them wise in all things. 

GAM. The same God 

Who gave them light and wisdom can impart 
Like gift to this man. 

MAL. Passing over us 

To give him this great gift of heavenly love ! 

GAM. Yea, let me speak it : 'Tis not sceptred state, 
Nobility of birth, or grace of form, 
Or princely revenues, that God regards, 
But hearts unstained by cruelty or guile 
Or sensual passion : there the temple is 



100 SACRED DRAMAS 

Wherein the Spirit of God delights to dwell. 

MAL. Sayest thou well, Gamaliel? In sooth, 
My mind ere while misgave me that at heart 
Thou favourest this unholy sectary. 
No longer can I hold my peace, or hide 
Thy doings, all unworthy as they are 
Thy name and ancestry. Thou who shouldst be, 
Of all men living, foremost to defend 
The authority of our order, art become 
The foremost to assail, and all in favour 
Of a wild madman not yet half thy years. 
Tell me, in God's name, what canst thou expect 
From such attempts, or what rich prize of gain 
Reachest thou after? Haply the hand that's raised 
To overthrow our order and bring down 
Rabbi and priest to naked poverty 
Will open bounteously to thee, and heap 
Honour and wealth upon thee. 

GAM. Violence, 

Disdain, and pride, O Malchus, never can 
Defend our dignity, and deeming so 
Thou missest far thy aim : not such the means 
By which our fathers rose to place and power. 

MAL. The ancient ways were well in ancient men : 
Our own become us better. Lapse of time 
Antiquates much that once was right and good. 
Let every man be of his age and time. 

GAM. Good waxes not time-worn ; the thing that's 
good 



THE BAPTIST 101 

Becomes good men of every time and age. 

MAL. Had we the spirit of our forefathers 

GAM. And lived we by the maxims they revered ! 

MAL. This scoundrel long ere now had had his 

due 
Not idle threats but death with ignominy. 

GAM. Let not blood stain us ; 'twere a cruel deed : 
Far be it from our thoughts or purposes ! 

MAL. If in God's service done, the deed is good, 
And holy, evil-name it how you will. 

GAM. Strange holiness which dooms to death a life 
That's blameless. 

MAL. Blameless sayest thou, of him 

Who thus is turning all things upside down ? 

GAM. If he be wrong, confute him openly. 
Why not display therein thy brilliant powers ? 
Encounter with him ; all the odds are thine. 
Thy learning, practised skill, and ripened years 
May well o'ermatch his rude and untaught youth. 
Haply his erring steps thou shalt reclaim, 
And win the praise of all right-minded men. 

MAL. This is no wound for gentle pharmacy ; 
Its healing must be halter, fire, and steel, 
Or potent remedies severer yet, 
If any be, than halter, steel, and fire. 

GAM. Be this man all thou speakest him, or worse, 
One thing there is which to thyself is due 
To give him friendly counsel, lest rude tongues 
Should name thee readier to push o'er the brink 



102 SACRED DRAMAS 

A gazer perilously poised, than stretch 

A rescuing hand to the down-falling one. 

It much concerns thy honourable name 

That all, even they who love thee not, should know 

Thou wiliest ill to none and well to all, 

And wouldest destroy none who do not rush 

With headlong obstinacy on their doom. 

One thing I pray thee, ere the gust of rage 
Transport thee further : Say, what canst thou gain 
By holding with such stern tenacity 
To thy resentful purpose ? 

MAL. This I gain : 

1 crush mine enemy, assuage the grief 
Of all good men, steady the wavering, 
Strike fear where shame restrains not, and confirm 
Our country's laws with this deep villain's blood. 

GAM. Nay, rather, this is what thou shalt attain : 
Thou shalt be deemed of all men to have used 
Mere tyrant force and cruelty to crush 
A holy man, whom in fair argument 
Thou couldst not cope with. 

MAL. Holy let him be 

And venerable as you will, Gamaliel ; 
Clearly the Spirit of God instructs him not, 
Else would he not despise observances 
Hallowed by time and our forefathers' zeal; 
And since this sacred cause finds no defence 
In you, the royal aid and furtherance 
Remains to me, and this I now shall seek. 



THE BAPTIST 103 

CHO. Gamaliel,, to my thought,, advises well; 
Be ruled by his wise counsel. Thou wilt not? 
Yet stay ! Ah, rage, to all good counsel foe, 
Clouds the clear mental vision and obstructs 
The entering voice of reason. 

GAM. He is gone, 

Burning with anger, swollen with scornful pride. 
All that I fitly could I have essayed 
To calm his frenzied passions, and assuage 
With gentle words the fury of his wrath. 
If thanks are due for faithful counsel given, 
Thanks have I earned, though thus repaid with hate. 

So lives the world, deceitful, false at heart ; 
And on our Order rests the shameful blot 
With darkest stain. Our sanctity, alas, 
Worn for display, is but a deep disguise. 
Thwart us, you find it so. Without reproof 
The high behests of God you may contemn; 
But touch our old traditions and at once 
You are our foe and hated to the death. 
And many ministers of death have we : 
Gold, subtle poison, perjured witnesses, 
Will buy, arrest, or crush your noxious life. 
With false reports we stuff the royal ear ; 
Rumours, surmises, calumnies crowd in, 
Each upon other, working to one end 
To wake distrust and heighten it to rage, 
Arid thus give speed and force to the dread blow 
Struck in a king's displeasure. He is gone, 



104 SACRED DRAMAS 

And to the palace wends his way, intent 
On no mild measures. He will feign alarm 
That heresies are springing up apace; 
The rites our fathers hallowed, kept no more ; 
The sovereign authority itself 
In danger of derision ; and what else 
May serve him cloaking all his villainy 
Under a fair disguise. If this should fail, 
A weapon keener still sleeps in its sheath : 
"Treason, O king! Conspiracy is rife!" 
A spell to shake the pillars of a throne, 
And make the monarch tremble, and his heart 
Grow hard and capable of sternest things. 
Treason ! that fatal word red-dyed with blood 
He need but speak, and speak he will at need 
Aloud and boldly, and affirm that bands 
Of sworn assassins aim at the king's life ; 
That ruffians meet in secret conference ; 
That an atrocious crime is ripening ; 
That gatherings are held mysteriously 
At dead of night to plot the time and means ; 
That godless factions growing in our midst 
Give growth and strength to private discontent. 
Such phantoms he will raise, or gloomier still, 
So violent is his nature, ever prompt 
To counsel acts of barbarous cruelty. 
These poisons, bred in an envenomed heart, 
Infect the royal ear; they fall not there 
Inert and idly : 'tis the vice of kings, 



THE BAPTIST 105 

The blot with which few kings have been unstained, 

To listen credulously to informers' tales. 

Pure fictions are believed, the cruellest 

Believed most readily ; fantastic fears 

Are conjured up in their own minds in minds 

That turn as vanes to every changing breath 

Inconstant Rumour blows. Faithful advice, 

Wise warning, who shall give ? You are but scorned 

As timid, feeble, dull, and spiritless ; 

No counsellor for a king. The good and wise 

Are not atop ; the scum and froth are there 

In proud pre-eminence. The very names 

To virtue given of yore we now reverse, 

With some poor gain ; for splendid virtues we 

Have none to be misnamed ; but splendid titles, 

These have we, these we proudly bear, with these, 

Names of high office and great reverence, 

We dazzle and deceive the uncultured throng. 

Touching this prophet, would to heaven we were 
More heedful what we do, more self-restrained. 
If he is sent from God, no might of man 
Can frustrate or resist the will supreme : 
But if with deep-laid guile he seeks to crown 
Some bad ambition, quickly shall he fall 
Transfixed with his own sword. Let each unfold 
The matter as he lists. My counsel is, 
To such as may think well to follow it : 
Stain not your hands with guiltless blood ; still more, 
Beware lest even righteous blood be shed 



106 SACRED DRAMAS 

In your rash hour. The cruel things we do 

To others may in after days recoil 

On our own heads as bitter precedents. 

Has Herod not ferocity enough 
But we must set the torch to his hot mood 
And speed his all-ungoverned fury forth, 
To range with wilder havoc ? 



CHORUS 

Deep is the night that in its dark recesses 
Closely enfolds the dim-eyed mind of mortals ! 
Still veiled in darkness spend we life's brief seasons 
Fast from us gliding ! 

Modesty feigned conceals the shameless-hearted ; 
Piety's semblance hides the irreligious ; 
Storm-shaken bosoms counterfeit the tranquil ; 
Guile seems sincereness. 

He who of all men looked most grave and steadfast, 
Perfect example of strictest moderation, 
Rages with fury uncontrolled, and fiercely 
Flames into anger. 

Fierce as the blast that hot from Etna's forges 
Hurls rocky fragments swiftly whirling upwards ; 
Fierce as the fires that make Vesuvius' entrails 
Glow as a furnace. 



THE BAPTIST 107 

Even so fiercely burns the vengeful fury 
Driving this Rabbi against the blameless Baptist 
Bent to arrest by truculent accusal 
Truth all defenceless. 

O lust of glory, source of many evils ; 
Guest of vain bosoms where conceit doth feed thee ! 
O praise, rich guerdon misbestowed on virtue 
Outwardly seeming ! 

Soon as dominion o'er the mind thou gainest, 
Straight thou enchantest the soul with soothing poisons, 
And, far exiling reason, thou perturbest 
All inward counsel. 

Piety and Truth and Modesty all shun thee ; 
Faithfulness shuns thee, and Justice she who lingered 
Last upon earth of all its guests celestial 
Till vice distained it. 

O, if some power uplifting from our eyelids 
Clouds that now darken gave us to contemplate, 
Naked to view the cares that fill the bosom, 
Full in light baring deepest hid concealments, 
Then should we see, in that small cavern harboured, 
Many a monster, shapes uncouth and wondrous, 
More than in distant climes the Nile can nurture, 
Ganges or Libya teeming with fell portents 
More than the rugged Caucasus can shelter, 
Denned in its darkness. 



108 SACRED DRAMAS 

There wouldst thou gaze upon the spotted tigress, 
Blood-stained with rage ; the tawny lion's fierceness ; 
Gluttonous wolves, with ravin never sated, 
Still for blood thirsting, hungering still for carnage ; 
Basilisk exhaling baleful poison round it ; 
Aspic that kills with deep envenomed slumber ; 
Scorpion dreadful for its curving stirig ; and 
Crocodile rushing through the sounding sedges, 
False tears a-trickling down its flinty cheek-plates ; 
Craft of the fox ; and Nubian hyaena's 
Treacherous gambols. 

Piety pretended masks inhuman tyrants ; 
Stoles with broad fringes cloak unholy passions : 
Worth dwells sequestered, clad in poorest raiment, 
Under a rustic cabin's lowly roof-tree ; 
Sells not herself for proudest of earth's titles ; 
Laughs at the madding tumults of the forum : 
Plaudits of the people utterly despises ; 
Haunts no great patron's client-crowded portals ; 
Deeply embowered in rural scenes secluded, 
Life's silent years, unknown to all, she spends in 
Peace and contentment. 

THE QUEEN, HEROD 

Qu. Sluggish of heart, still dost thou not perceive 
Thy kingly power is trembling to its fall ? 
Art thou so blind thou canst not yet detect 



THE BAPTIST 109 

The treachery that seeks thine own deep harm? 
For give this demagogue but one year more, 
And vainly shalt thou menace him with bonds, 
Imprisonment, or death of infamy. 
Already proudly he surveys his power 
The hordes that muster trooping to his voice. 
What king with all the pomp of royalty 
Can boast like retinue? 

HER. What canst thou fear 

From men unarmed, though many ? 

Qu. If thou suffer 

These secret gatherings to be held unchecked, 
There is no class of men may not be feared. 

HER. But not this man ; he but instructs the 

people, 
Who crowd to him by no sedition led. 

Qu. The wider spread the faction, all the more 
The threatening danger. 

HER. O, it cannot be : 

The charge of faction glances off this man, 
So high his sanctity. 

Qu. Such wicked things 

Ofttimes lie hid beneath that sombre veil. 

HER. Not thence ; it is from men in high command, 
Great lords and purpled satraps, that kings dread 
The coming of offence and treachery. 

Qu. Sour-featured hypocrites may be traitorous. 

HER. Unarmed and poor, whose drink the running 
brook, 



110 SACRED DRAMAS 

Whose food the wild woods, whose few-needed herbs 
The unlaboured earth doth furnish what should he 
Harbour within him of deep perfidy 
To thrones and sceptres ? 

Qu. Thou dost see his mantle ; 

His food and drink thou also well canst see ; 
But what he carries hid within his breast, 
That seest thou not. 

HER. It were a wretched thing 

To be a king, if kings must fear the wretched. 

Qu. More wretched were it still to be undone 
For lack of wisely fearing. 

HER. Were it so, 

What have kings left that may be held as safe ? 

Qu. All, all is safe, if they will but suppress 
Incitements to disturbance. 

HER. Yet bethink thee ; 

A good king and a tyrant differ much : 
The one protects his subjects, friend or foe ; 
The other is the unsparing scourge of all. 

Qu. Destroy or be destroyed! the pinch is hard 
In either way ; but were I bound to choose, 
Not 1 should perish but mine enemy. 

HER. When there is need for neither, both alike 
Are things to shrink from. 

Qu. In this loud uproar, 

'Mid all this stir and tumult, nought, forsooth, 
Must feel the ungentle touch of a rough hand ! 
When the wild mob are into frenzy lashed, 



THE BAPTIST 111 

And law, religion, and the authority 

That sits enthroned in the high sovereign prince 

Are scorned by the rude rabble and defied ! 

Beware lest falsely-seeming lenity 

Draw thee away from what is just and right. 

More closely scanned, the lenity that seems 

Will stand disclosed as utmost cruelty. 

Sparing one factious, God-forsaken knave, 

Thou bringest all to utter ruin all 

Whom so industriously he urges on 

Against thy life. Imagine it is come, 

That which must come ere long the multitude 

To arms aroused ; the land from end to end 

Wrapt in the devastating flames of war ; 

The fields imtilled and waste ; the cities burned ; 

And maiden innocence to force a prey ; 

And battle-strife with dubious issue waged, 

'Mid wounds and death when rebel lawlessness 

Shall thus have burst through every check and bound, 

Then wilt thou bitterly, too late, condemn 

This foolish clemency. And, lo, he comes, 

The head of this death-striking pestilence! 

Behold him ! there the great reprover stands ! 

Interrogate him ; his own rankling tongue 

W~ill tell thee more, or I misjudge, than fame 

Has yet divulged. Nor is it wonderful 

That there are evil men who lightly hold 

Thy sceptred majesty ; its gentleness 

Makes insult safe and seems to woo contempt. 



112 SACRED DRAMAS 

HER. To have great power and yet restrain its use 
Within due bounds of reason is, methinks, 
A kingly and right noble quality. 

Qu. Ha! is it so? and shall this wretch restrain 
Thy royal power to its just exercise ? 
Shall thy proud rule stoop to be curbed and reined 
At his good will and pleasure? Were it thine, 
The spirit of a king 

HER. Nay, it were well 

For thee to go ; leave these affairs to me. 

Qu. Ay, well for me to go ; lest I should hear 
Anew, as oft before, deep insults cast 
Upon me to my face. When cruel wrongs 
Done to a queen are left without redress, 
Without revenge, and base-born men are held 
In higher estimation near the throne, 
What hope may meaner suppliants entertain 
That their wrongs shall be righted? 

HEROD, JOHN, CHORUS 

HER. So ; she is gone. Then let us talk the while. 
Be not amazed or count it passing strange 
That, wounded where the hurt gives keenest pain, 
A woman is incensed more than is meet 
A high-born lady, rich and powerful, 
And, to crown all, a queen. For mine own part, 
None better can bear witness than thyself 
How tender of thy welfare I have been. 



THE BAPTIST 113 

The hate of all the people of the land 

Strikes at thee, clamouring for thy punishment ; 

The nobles are aggrieved, the priesthood growl. 

And what it is that wakes the angry voice 

Of public discontent few words will tell. 

Thou railest on all ranks with biting tongue 

And scurrilous invectives ; far and wide 

Scattering the deadly taint of thy new doctrine, 

Thou dost deceive the simple multitude, 

Unskilled in questions of our ancient laws ; 

With turbulent speeches thou imperillest 

My royal crown and the tranquillity 

Of the whole realm. Thou bidst the soldiery 

Obey no more their captain; bidst the people 

Obey no longer the great Emperor 

Pledging thy wild, fantastic word the while 

That a new kingdom shall arise wherein 

A foreign yoke shall weigh them down no more. 

And thus deluding them with idle hopes 

Thou stirrest up their old rebelliousness, 

Nor leavest them to follow undisturbed 

The gentle ways of quiet and content. 

And, as if all the miseries we have borne 

Were not enough, thou dost provoke again, 

Fool that thou art ! the arms of mighty Rome. 

Nor doubt I thou hast dared behind my back, 

Since to my face thou hast not feared, to charge 

Me with incestuous wedlock, and hast striven, 

What in thee lay, to embroil me with my brother, 



114 SACRED DRAMAS 

And kindle hatred of me o'er the land. 

Yet more, as if too few were thy misdeeds, 
Who hast dared all things against all alike, 
Thou art now making war on Heaven itself; 
And dreadest not to attempt the overthrow 
Of the old hallowed rites, observed so long, 
The safety and the glory of this realm. 
These things the people murmur everywhere, 
All blaming me as too remiss to guard 
And vindicate our old ancestral laws, 
The institutions which our fathers held 
In love and reverence. Still, no act of mine, 
With rigour tinged, has yet been done, to lay 
Arrest upon thee ; nay, even now, I swear, 
All such befriending as a friendly judge 
And kindly has it in his power to show, 
It shall be shown thee in no niggard wise. 
For I am no bloodthirsty tyrant, born 
Of an Assyrian or Egyptian sire : 
One natal soil gave birth to you and me; 
One soil has nursed us from our infant years ; 
And not the meanest life in all the land 
Is taken but I feel as if a limb 
Were torn from mine own body, my own blood 
Seems rushing forth from me. A kindly judge 
And fair thou hast in Herod. If thou canst 
Refute what else is laid to thee, I swear 
To pardon all that thou hast yet inveighed 
Against my house or me : so shalt thou know, 



THE BAPTIST 115 

The public voice assenting, that no hurt 
Of private nature moves me : public wrongs, 
These seek I to redress ; my private wrongs 
i pass unheeding. Mayest thou so wash out 
All other charges that thy innocence 
Shall leave no ground for my severity. 

CHO. Hold to this tenor, and thou shalt be dear, 
And still in distant days shalt live renowned. 
Deem not that gold or troops of soldiery 
Can fence a kingdom round with rampart strong 
As that which loyalty and love upbuild, 
Under the sway of a just-ruling king. 

Jo. He to whom God entrusts the reins of State 
Must needs hear many things ; to credit all 
Needs in no wise. Self-interest, envy, grief, 
Favour, or fear oft heighten or subdue 
The colours of the truth. To high-born men 
And humble have I spoken ; if reproof 
Has stung one man of them as too severe, 
Let him arraign the life that he has lived 
Ere speech of mine be challenged. Tis my wont 
Is and has ever been to reprehend 
Publicly evil deeds in public done. 
Doctrine or deed of mine ne'er shunned the light ; 
Prom darksome lurking-place I never struck ; 
And men are not the foes I grapple with, 
But men's iniquities. When soldiers came 
And asked how best to serve the king and God 
With equal loyalty, I charged them thus : 



116 SACRED DRAMAS 

To accuse none falsely, do no violence, 
Nor steal, nor overreach by craft and guile 
The simple and unwary, and to stint 
Their greed to the just limit of their pay. 

Tis said I stir up hopes, hopes big with change 
And revolution; but the hopes I preach 
The roll of ancient prophecy inspires ; 
Where ye yourselves have found them, as I found : 
1 stir none other ; and the man lives not, 
Of all the many thousands I have seen, 
Who can stand forth and say he learned from me 
To scorn his Prince and love disloyalty. 
Such things has rumour spread, or blinded rage 
Invented in its headlong eagerness 
To do me hurt refuted easily 
By the mere naked truth. But sacrilege ! 
This also lies against me ! That I honour, 
Devoutly honour and observe, the old 
Time-hallowed ordinances, needs, methinks, 
No surer token than that, openly, 
Clear as the shining light, he comes not forth, 
The accuser of my crimes, to lay them bare ; 
But mutters low in secret nooks obscure, 
Fit haunt of phantoms. But there is still more : 
Thou canst not lawfully have thy brother's wife! 
Yes, I have said it, take it how thou list. 
But well bethink thee whether it be right 
To please the king or God, compelled to choose. 
And would it were the mind of all whom kings 



THE BAPTIST 117 

Hold in their closest friendship, to speak forth 

The salutary truth, not flatteries 

Smooth-tongued but hurtful. O, how many ills 

And sore disquietudes would cease to come, 

Their entrance barred ! If I have said erewhile, 

With speech more free, more true, than courtiers use, 

Aught that concerns thee, 'twere not well to scorn 

The warning voice that pleads for righteousness. 

Rather, let all that's good and just in thee 

Give heed to one who lives but to defend 

Things that are just and good ; and who once more 

Bids thee restrain thy power within the bounds 

Which righteousness prescribes. God is supreme, 

The King of all, of thee and of all kings, 

And over all men executes his will 

W T ith sovereignty far transcending thine. 

My life is in thy hand; do as thou wilt ; 

But know that Heaven decrees the like for thee 

Just Heaven whose judgments err not, whose decrees 

Bring the due recompense of all that's done. 

HER. When thou ascendest to the stars, then talk 
Of heaven's affairs ; while yet thou lingerest 
Below on earth, bear with earth's lawful powers. 

Jo. The thrones of earth I reverence ; to earth's 

kings 

1 yield obedience ; but my fatherland 
Is in the eternal realms ; and heaven's great King 
I worship and adore. 

HER. How wonderful 



118 SACRED DRAMAS 

The obedience unto kings which makes a king 
Thy subject and would bind him to thy laws ! 

Jo. Were I a lawgiver, I should decree 
That nations shall be subject to their kings, 
Kings subject unto God. 

HER. Let us have done : 

Enough of wrangling ; take him hence again. 
Tis an affair perplexed and intricate ; 
And until all be seen in fuller light 
Open and clear I shall determine nothing. 

CHO. Whoso avers that from a monarch's speech 
Can be discerned the real purposes 
Hid deep within his breast, let him know well 
He trusts a mirror filmed with dimming breath, 
Obscuring, breathed on purpose to obscure. 
O may kind Heaven in pity yet bring all 
To good event! but still the boding mind 
Shrinks from the view of what its fears foresee. 

HER. To be a king, O hard and troubled lot! 
Can words declare, or thought's keen glance survey, 
The load of ceaseless misery that rests 
Upon a king? The many hold us free 
Alone of men, sole blest of all mankind 
Kings, whom relentless poverty pursues, 
Whom apprehensions torture, and a round 
Of bitter servitude galls to the quick. 
The common throng have blessings manifold 
Denied to kings. What they desire or dread 
Or love they dare tell forth without restraint. 



THE BAPTIST 119 

Free from alarms, their simple stores supply 

Their simple wants, and life is undisguised. 

But we, oft as we meet the public gaze, 

Must wear a seemly mask ; to suppliants 

Must promise smooth and sympathetic things ; 

Listen distressed to the distressful tale ; 

Indignant, to the tale of cruel wrong ; 

Must hide revenge in a dissembling breast, 

And let our grudges sleep till fitting time ; 

And menace loudest when oppressed the most 

With harassing and heart-benumbing fear. 

A gentle prince is scorned; a harsh, abhorred. 

Subservience is the root of sovereign power. 

The people, to be ruled, must be obeyed : 

At my unhampered will I can do nought. 

If I arrest this prophet's wild career 

And still his voice for ever, I offend 

The thousands of my subjects ; if I say, 

"Let him live on," I jeopardize my crown. 

What then to do? Can there be doubt of it? 

Reasons of state must have preponderance. 

Herod is Herod's first and nearest care. 

And be it that the sceptre is not held 

Save by subservience to the popular will, 

Were it not folly of the wildest strain 

To wreck the sovereign power through overzeal 

To win the people's praise. The unstable crowd 

Rage or rejoice at random, joy and rage 

Coming and passing unaccountably. 



120 SACKED DRAMAS 

Tis now my steadfast purpose blood shall flow 

To strengthen my assailed prerogative. 

The angry discontent that may arise 

Will speedily be allayed. Why linger I ? 

If this far-reaching evil be allowed 

To spread still wider, soon it will outgrow 

All check or remedy. He has presumed 

This messenger of heaven, forsooth, presumes 

To call my nuptial bond incestuous! 

Shall I endure it? Let this go unlashed 

With the sharp scourge it loudly cries upon, 

Not there will the effrontery of the man 

Arrest itself. He will aspire, and soon, 

To sway my sceptred hand to his decrees ; 

Soon will he bind with chains the captive limbs 

Of monarchs ; soon will burn with fierce desire 

To be no more a subject but supreme ; 

Will give the law to sovereign kings, and whelm 

All order in disorder. There is need 

Of sharp and instant remedy to beat down 

A mounting evil. The new-kindled blaze 

Must be extinguished ere it gather strength 

Unquenchable. It is but to invite 

Fresh insult, to bear tamely earlier wrong; 

And should occasion give me leave to strike 

With general assent, I shall not fail 

To seize the favouring mood; but if I may not, 

All peril to the crown with my whole power 

Must be resisted, cost what life it may. 



THE BAPTIST 121 

Let Malchus prate of laws, and learnedly 
Discuss entangled questions, never yet 
Resolved, nor haply to the end of time 
Resolvable: these things concern me not. 
Only, let this one royal law be held 
Inflexibly, and recognized by all, 
That, over and beyond enacted laws, 
Whate'er I will is lawful and is right. 

CHORUS 

Builder of this vast earth-sphere, 
Whose sovereign will all things revere 
The heavens with glittering fires inlaid, 
And earth with varied flowers arrayed, 
And heaving ocean's refluent tide : 
Hath not Fame, wherein abide 
Deathless the deeds of bygone days, 
Carried to our ears the praise 
Of thy glorious works of old 
When thy puissant arm back rolled, 
As down tossed on the tempest's wings, 
The mustered power of mighty kings ; 
And by the deep-fixed roots uptore 
Proud nations that are feared no more, 
To plant us in their conquered land 
A soil which not our spear or brand 
Or strength or wisdom for us won; 
'Twas Heaven's protecting grace alone 



122 SACRED DRAMAS 

Led us safe through ranks of foes 
To the rich promise of repose. 

And art not thou the King adored 
Of Isaac's race ! of Israel Lord ! 
God of the Hebrews ! who hast led 
Our warriors o'er the trampled dead 
Of vanquished foemen to the prey 
In their perfidious camps that lay. 
Oft, placing our high trust in thee, 
Our Captain and Defence, have we, 
Boasting no prowess of our own, 
Brought to our country wide renown. 

Dost thou, O Father, utterly 
Thy once loved people cast from thee? 
And are we left the scoff and taunt 
Of every hostile miscreant? 
Lo, piety is held in scorn ; 
Religion to the dust is borne; 
The kingly robe of purple dye 
Enfolds astute hypocrisy. 
Victim-like, thy saints are laid 
Under the axe's cruel blade, 
And 'neath the swiftly trenchant wound 
Their sacred heads roll to the ground. 
Our prophets by a tyrant's sword 
Are slain; our sorrows but afford 
Mirth to despiteful enemies ; 
And 'neath devotion's seeming guise 



THE BAPTIST , 1 

Some, worthy of the dungeon cold, 
Rim round their brows with regal gold, 
While, worthy of that golden rim, 
Some pine immured in dungeon dim. 

Arise, and to thy people bring, 
O Father, needed succouring ; 
And let the foe behold thy hand 
Outstretched as when, from Arab strand. 
Our fathers saw the parted sea 
Rush deep o'er Egypt's chivalry : 
Or when, with eyes divinely clear, 
The servant of the fateful seer 
Saw all around on Dothan's steep 
The fiery steeds and chariots sweep. 

Thee, Lord, let all the earth, made free 
From error's deep obscurity, 
That quenches in the darkest gloom 
The light which should the mind illume : 
Let earth, from where its hills first gleam, 
Gilded with the orient beam, 
To where the rays of sunset red 
A parting glory o'er it shed 
Acknowledge thee, with one accord, 
The sole Almighty Sovereign Lord. 

MALCHUS, JOHN 

MAL. In truth, so stands the state of mortal men 
That were the heavens to offer thee thy choice, 



124 SACRED DRAMAS 

It would perplex thee what to seek or shun. 

Power, honour, wealth, thou wouldst for thee and thine, 

Gifts that have oft brought ruin in their train ; 

And for thine enemy thou dost invoke 

Exile, imprisonment, and bonds, though these 

Oft bring to him great glory, and to thee 

Irreparable loss : so have I learned 

By mine own bitter proof, no need to seek 

Remoter instances. For when, withdrawn 

To the lone ridges of Judaea's hills, 

This upstart Baptist drew to him the hearts 

Of the whole credulous multitude as with 

Some potent fascination, I stood forth 

The champion of the Pharisees alone, 

When all held back ; nor did I cease to use 

Every expedient that might serve my will 

Till cold hard iron bound those guilty hands, 

A public prison walled the troubler in, 

And the whole palace with the echoes rang 

Of my loud accusations. All too clearly 

Bonds, prison, accusations profit nothing; 

So strongly has this foul contagion seized 

The minds of all men, and so deep have all 

Drunk in this mortal poison, that they turn 

His sufferings into honours, and bemoan 

The perils that enfold him. Me they load 

With execrations wheresoe'er I go; 

Point at me with the finger; glare on me 

With scowling faces : while this shaggy knave, 



THE BAPTIST 125 

This bold blasphemer, who has overturned 
The landmarks of old time, and quite effaced 
All just and orderly distinctions, stands 
Prime favourite, and before his prison-doors, 
Deep-bolted, friendly troops keep patient watch, 
Waiting his guarded coming-forth. Alas, 
None upon earth more wretched are than we, 
Who, all things else neglecting, dedicate 
To public cares our undivided powers. 
Whoso makes this surrender, let him know 
He ill bestows his favour ; for it is 
The perverse custom of the people still 
To honour the unworthy, and to spurn 
The great and noble. Whither shall I turn? 
Which grievance first bemoan of all that are ? 
Whom make the target of my wrath? To whom 
Bring, in this quarrel, my confederate aid? 

The people in their godless folly worship 
This pseudo-seer; the Rabbis are perplexed; 
The king forbears ; the nobles heed not ; I, 
Alone, even with these shoulders I uphold 
The tottering pile of our ancestral rites, 
No hand of man assisting ; I alone 
Lament the evils that afflict this land. 

What then determine? to desert my post? 
Betray our laws and dearest sanctities, 
And mine own Order to its forfeiture 
Of awe and reverence ; and bear to be 
The laughter of mine enemies? Good sooth, 



126 SACRED DRAMAS 

This shall I bear; for what else can I now? 
Am I alone to stoop beneath a load 
Which all refuse, and cast myself before 
The down-rush of this vast State-ruin ? No ; 
Let God look to his own. Self-interest 
Now rules the lives of men, and I am bound 
To mine own self by closest of all ties. 
If I misgovern till disaster come, 
I fall beneath the ruin I have made ; 
And they who favour me the most while yet 
I stand, when I am down will be the first 
To lift the heel against me. Should I rule 
And prosper, it is still a thankless toil; 
And all I win is envy. Now, though late, 
I laud the counsel of Gamaliel 
Too late, unless perchance 'tis ne'er too late 
To approve the wiser thought and follow it. 

Men may accuse my inconsistency 
Herein ; 'twere better so than execrate 
My rashness after the grim deed was done. 
Lo, let men think as best may please thm ; I 
Will shake me free of these perplexities, 
And patch up peace with this mob-orator 
Or prophet is it? he will not, methinks, 
A simple, unsuspecting man, refuse 
My tendered amity. But if he prove 
Refractory, there is no stratagem 
But I will use to have it thought by none 
That 'tis by my device he perishes. 



THE BAPTIST 127 

If I regain the popular esteem, 

'Tis not the worst of endings, be the end 

Otherwise how it will. And see, he comes! 

In sooth, 'tis he ; and mark the crowds that hang 

Obsequious on the blasphemer's heels; 

And we the while, 'mid silent emptiness, 

Sit idly and unheeded in the heart 

Of a great city's thousands. But 'tis well 

To hear this Master ; something he would say. 

Jo. Great Ruler, Maker, Judge of all the world ! 
Thee all that earth brings forth, or air enfolds 
Within its yielding bosom, or the sea 
Beneath its sounding waves doth nourish all 
Acknowledge thee as God ; and as their Source 
And Origin they know thee, and obey 
Spontaneously and immutably 

The laws which once for all thou hast ordained. 
At thy command Spring scatters o'er the fields 
Her painted blossoms, Summer yields her fruits, 
Autumn pours forth her stores of ruddy wine, 
And Winter clothes the hills in glistering snow. 
As thou hast given them charge, the winding streams 
And rivers downward to the ocean roll 
Their mass of waters, and the tide-swept sea 
For ever ebbs and flows ; the moon illumes 
The brow of darkness, and the burning sun 
Flames o'er the waking world unresting orbs 
That pause not in their office day nor night, 
But with immutable fidelity 



128 SACRED DRAMAS 

Hold on their radiant way. Nay, there is nought 
In heaven or earth but with goodwill obeys 
The Sovereign Lord, loves the All-loving Father, 
And, in such service as it can achieve, 
Shows forth its zeal for him who reared on high 
The fabric of this glorious universe. 

But man alone, though bound far more than all 
To do his high commands with high delight, 
Stands forth rebellious, sole apostate thing 
Of all on earth ; spurns the behests of Heaven ; 
Rejects the curb of salutary laws; 
Hastes to all vilest things with reckless speed; 
Makes appetence the rule of what is just ; 
And what his might can compass, that is right. 

MAL. So far, thy principles are sound and good. 

Jo. Now marvel I so much that Gentile tribes, 
Far o'er the world and under other skies, 
Should wander lost in a bewildering maze 
Of error; more I marvel that the race 
Who vaunt themselves the heritage of God, 
And with revilings loud all others brand 
As sinners and profane, do yet themselves 
Live in such unrestraint and wickedness 
As in no other region upon earth 
The sun in all his circuit looks upon. 

MAL. In sooth, all thou hast said, thus far, is true. 

Jo. Nor on the unstable multitude alone 
Rests this reproach. The Levite in his robe 
Of snowy white, conspicuous from afar; 



THE BAPTIST 129 

The Scribe, puffed up with knowledge of the Law; 
And you, ye Elders, whose ripe years do wear 
A venerable semblance all are gone 
Astray, and wander far in tortuous ways. 
The orphan's and the widow's cause is lost 
At your tribunals, and the rich oppress 
The undefended poor ; just judgment and 
Unjust alike ye make your merchandise. 

MAL. I burst with wrath, to hear this silently. 

Jo. But, O ye Rabbis, who in sanctity 
And learning would be thought to overpass 
All others ; and ye consecrated Priests, 
That hold the seats of dignity ; and thou, 
Chief Pontiff of the sacred brotherhood : 
Ye tithe each pot-herb that the earth doth yield ; 
Mint, anise, cummin, garlic, fennel, rue, 
Your nice and delicate scruples tithe them all. 
But as for reading or inculcating 
The maxims of the prophets, oracles 
Inspired of Heaven, or as to showing forth 
The path of holy living, ye are dumb ; 
Placed in authority although ye be, 
From you no guiding voice is ever heard. 
Dumb dogs, ye bark not out one timely note, 
Nor drive away the ravening wolves that prowl 
Around your folds. Wolves say I ? Ye are wolves 
Of fiercest nurture ; ye devour the flock ; 
Ye clothe you with the wool, ye drink the milk. 
And with the flesh ye sate your gluttony. 

I 



130 SACRED DRAMAS 

The flock ye feed not, 'tis yourselves ye feed. 

MAL. Hence, all conciliation, to the winds ! 
Befits it me another moment's space 
To suffer the insulter thus to rail 
Upon our Order? Nay, were God from heaven 
To bid me, on some high commission sent, 
Patiently listen to such words as these, 
Rather would I revolt 'gainst heaven's command 
Than hear them spoken. But enough ; refrain 
I can no longer. Hark thee, worthy man ! 
Rare chieftain of the crowd ! is this in truth 
Thy sage philosophy ; and in such wise 
Instructest thou the simple multitude? 
Thy words are fierce and wild. 

Jo. They touch not thee, 

If thou art upright, and thy heart unstained. 

MAL. It ill beseems thee to revile a priest. 

Jo, To give to evil things an evil name 
Is well, and therein no reviling lies. 

MAL. Young art thou; riper years should rule the 
young. 

Jo. Rather, at every age, should Heaven rule all. 

MAL. Heaven charged thee, then, to utter forth 
those things? 

Jo. Things that are true, Truth bids all men speak 
forth. 

MAL. Yet many has it greatly profited, 
Discreetly silent, to leave things unsaid 
They might have spoken truly. 



THE BAPTIST 131 

Jo. I may not stay 

To reckon profit that is linked with sin. 

MAL. Then seems it to thee sinful not to say 
What yet thou sinnest saying. 

Jo. It were in truth 

Sinful and criminal to look idly on, 
And see so many thousands perishing, 
Whom I might lead to safe and quiet paths. 

MAL. Thou ! are not we the shepherds of the flock ? 

Jo. Yea ; if to feed be to devour, ye are. 

MAL. Busy thyself about thine own affairs ; 
Ours, not concerning thee, may be let pass. 

Jo. Things that concern my neighbour touch me too. 

MAL. Who art thou, pray, to claim this oversight ? ^ 
Art thou the Christ foretold in ancient days ? 

Jo. I am not the Christ. 

MAL. Art thou that Prophet ? 

Jo. No. 

MAL. What then? art thou Elijah? 

Jo. I am not. 

MAL. If thou art none of these, the promised Christ, 
The Prophet, nor Elijah, who art thou 
That rashly darest to inaugurate 
A baptism of thine own, unheard till now? 
Say, whom shall we report thee ? 

Jo. But a Voice 

A Voice upon the lonely mountain heights, 
Crying, Prepare the way, make straight the paths, 
Soon to be trodden by your coming Lord : 



132 SACRED DRAMAS 

At whose auspicious advent the deep vales 
Shall smooth their hollows into level plains, 
And the steep ridges of the rock-cleft hills 
Sink low till they are even with the ground. 
I in his name baptize with water, all 
Unworthy as I am to be his slave, 
His meanest slave, to bind or to untie 
The thong upon his sandals. Yet, the while, 
He stands among you, though ye know him not 
And traverses the ways before your eyes. 

MAL. Lo, what a tissue of enigmas here ! 
What slippery play of ambiguities ! 
Canst thou attest by sign or miracle 
The authority to which thou dost presume? 

Jo. I also might in turn demand of thee 
What miracle or sign from heaven attests 
Thine own assumed authority? 

MAL. How pert 

And insolent ! Conceal it as thou wilt, 
All know the source of thy unbounded rage : 
Thy fixed ambition is to grow and thrive 
Upon our disrepute ; thou wouldest make 
Our detriment thy path to wealth and fame, 
And rise to power by evil practices, 
Our overthrow thy rising. We are not 
Thy dupes ; thou hast but one, and thou art he. 
Nor art thou first of men that hath essayed 
The part of a deceiver, self-deceived : 
Would thou wert last to bear the penalty ! 



THE BAPTIST 133 

Or rather, would that better thoughts were thine, 

Born of my admonition ! that, whereas 

Thou hast been guide to lead full many wrong, 

Thou may'st, with wiser heed, thy steps retrace 

And bring the wanderers home ! Oft have I seen 

The garb of sanctity severely worn, 

Conspicuous, the better to persuade 

That they who wore it were of simple tastes 

And men of well-ruled minds ; and I have marked 

What time they rose to greatness by such arts, 

How step by step they laid their nature bare, 

And openly threw off the integrity 

Once feigned so well, and then, along the course 

Of their hearts' lusts, careered with slackened rein. 

If thou dost think by that bad path to climb 

The steeps of glory, thou dost greatly err, 

Unskilled in earth's affairs and ill-informed. 

Not that the path to honour and renown. 

Experience has taught me, surest guide, 

And age, the parent of experience ; 

And by my voice experience and age 

Thus speak to thee, so wilt thou lend an ear : 

"Better shalt thou advance thy wealth and fame 

Were safety more than splendour made thy aim." 

Jo. If I speak truth, do right, what living man 
Has cause to interpose and silence me ? 
If false in word or deed, thou, who art wise, 
Enlighten my unwisdom. 

MAL. Thou shalt rue 



134 SACRED DRAMAS 

Thy stubborn courses when thou diest the death. 

Jo. Go, menace death to such as fear to die ! 

MAL. Live I, proud man, not long shalt thou rejoice 
In this thy contumacy ; thou shalt learn 
Ere many days the sort of thing it is 
To scorn the aged, and to scourge the Scribes 
With thy sharp railing, and to irritate 
The Rabbis by thy petulant attacks. 
And since thou lightly holdest our good will, 
Haply thou yet shalt know what 'tis to feel 
The weight of our resentment. 



CHORUS 

The robber bent on darksome deeds 
Shuns the pale moon's watchful beam ; 
The assassin, when his victim bleeds, 
Abhors the torch's conscious gleam. 
The sick child loathes the remedy 
In bitter wormwood that doth lie ; 
And the green wound when dressed again 
Shrinks from the healing salve in pain. 
So he whose secret heart is gnawn 
By evil things that harbour there 
Detests of truth the brightening dawn 
That lays his inward trouble bare. 

And, O ye gloomy hypocrites, 
On whose stern visage grimness sits, 



THE BAPTIST 135 

Whose hearts are darker still with stain 
Of the love of guilt-won gain ! 
Hide though ye may, and hide full long, 
So blind and credulous are the throng 
Your secret villainies ; and though, 
Veiled under seemly outward show, 
The rank putrescence of your mind 
Escape the loathing of mankind 
You too, O hypocrites, you too 
Doth Conscience with reproaches urge, 
And your tormentor, hid from view, 
Remorseless wields his fiery scourge. 
The cavern of your own dark breast 
Moans to the voice of your unrest. 
O pure in heart, happy are ye ! 
For never at the inward bar 
Stand ye arraigned of villainy ; 
Nor scourged with fiery whips ye are 
By the Avenger that doth dwell 
Within the bosom's narrow cell. 
O pure in heart ! on earth that woiie 
None are blest but ye alone. 

MALCHUS, CHORUS, THE QUEEN 

MAL. The king I count not on ; he has betrayed 
Alike the public interests and his own 
By his ignoble scheming ; for he schemes 
To please the multitude and win their breath 



136 SACRED DRAMAS 

By base compliances; and, scheming so, 
Has striven the while, though under gentle guise, 
To keep me in reserve for public hate, 
And wreak his private insults at my risk. 
For either issue thus he stands prepared : 
For should the Baptist's death wake o'er the land 
Wide indignation, quick ! my gory head 
Shall still the angry tumult mine the crime ; 
But should the deed that lays in bloody shroud 
The chief of this new faction make no stir, 
Then shall the king have compassed his revenge 
Triumphantly, and all the honour his. 
Thus with deep policy do kings set forth 
Alternate spectacles of subjects slain, 
And hold it sport when the opposing chiefs 
Of mighty factions drag each other down. 
A measure hailed with general acclaim 
They vaunt as their own work, and take the praise : 
Our toil but tills the ground whereon they reap. 
But should the popular breeze veer round and blow 
Adverse to all they strove and thought to win, 
The measure so cried down and scowled upon 
They relegate to their subordinates, 
Leaving with them the blame; and guiltless blood 
Guiltless but valueless, blood of the vile 
Must turn accusing voices from the throne. 
Sole partner of my sorrow, there remains 
The queen, enraged as is a tigress robbed 
Of all her dappled whelps ; because this man, 



THE BAPTIST 137 

The Baptist, in the presence of the king, 
Has blamed the breaking of the covenant 
That earlier bound her to a wedded bed ; 
And openly denounced the unlawfulness 
Of wedlock with a living brother's wife. 
The affront is recent ; and while yet her wrath 
Burns with revengeful fury, I will set 
Ablaze her fierce resentment, and feed high 
The flame with such incitements as are fit : 
And, lo, even to my wish, yonder she comes ! 

CHO. Now fire lends aid to fiercely burning fire ; 
Poison to deadliest poison lends its aid : 
The hour of supreme danger is at hand. 

MAL. All hail, thou shining glory of the realm ! 
O queen, twin-sovereign, worthy alone 
To fill the highest seat of majesty. 

Qu. Good greeting to thee also, Rabbi Malchus ; 
But why lookst thou so sad? may I not know? 

MAL. For that which vexes thine own soul 1 grieve. 

Qu. Perchance ; yet say more openly the cause. 

MAL. How canst thou patiently endure to see 
Thy dignity despised, the kingly name 
Stript of its awe and dread authority ; 
And the puissant sceptre made to stoop 
To the base rabble's scorn and contumely ? 

Qu. What can I do? Hast thou a remedy? 

MAL. Yea, in thy wrath so were thy heart aflame 
With wrath that might befit thy noble birth, 
Thy spirit and the consort of a king. 



138 SACRED DRAMAS 

Qu. It has already been, the thing thou sayest. 
I am rent with rage, I weep, I chide, I fret ; 
But wrath nor tears avail me ; all my plaints 
Are scattered idly on the wandering wind. 

MAL. Wert thou in honour due as wife and queen, 
Would the king leave thy wrongs thus unavenged? 
Thy wrongs ! they are his own. 

Qu. Thou seest, Malchus, 

The popular devotion to this man. 
Haply the king has thought the dungeon cell 
May break his stern and vehement spirit, and 
Abridge the range of his audacity. 

MAL. Thou thinkest the fierce spirit of this brigand 
Subdued, or like to be, by dungeon chains ? 
Think it no more. Still fiercer is the rage 
Of the caged wild beast that ha's burst its bars 
Than of its fellows which have ever roamed 
The forest depths far on the pathless hills 
Where they were nurtured. What is there this man 
Will dare not, set at large, whose very bonds 
The people worship? Anger is not allayed 
By acts that chafe, but is incensed the more. 
Touched by the scourge of public ignominy, 
Unmerited or so deemed, the sufferer 
Is roused to fury. 

Qu. Rather say, the man 

Under this gentle usage will grow mild. 
His life stood forfeit to his obstinacy : 
To set him free by royal clemency 



THE BAPTIST 139 

Should win his heart for life to all is dear. 

MAL. This gentleness, with him, is cruel wrong ; 
The sense of it will rankle in his mind 
Who oftener will remember he was bound 
By thee, than afterwards by thee unbound. 

Qu. Thou dost announce a harsh and rugged nature. 

MAL. Inmate of almost every human breast. 
Thy kind deeds bring thee love that lives not long ; 
Thy unkind bring thee hate that never dies : 
Nay, there be few but hate even benefits 
Linked to the memory of their own misdeeds. 
Oft as thy gracious act shall come to mind 
The Baptist will remember his own crime ; 
And if he deem that, guilty in thy thoughts, 
And unforgiven still, he is enlarged 
For politic ends, what else can he believe 
Than that his punishment is but deferred, 
And vengeance slumbers not but bides its time ? 

Qu. Fierce natures are subdued by kindliness. 

MAL. Not his ; by indurating habit long 
Confirmed, and hardened to the thing he is, 
Far easier to break him than to bend. 

Qu. Counsel me ; what to do I know not well. 

MAL. If you can trust me, all shall be set right, 
And cleared of troublesome entanglements. 

Qu. Show me but what is wisest, and the word 
Shall speed to its fulfilment, undelayed. 

MAL. By action well-informed, far-seeing, firm, 
And not by let-alone, are great affairs 



140 SACRED DRAMAS 

Successfully conducted. 

Qu. If no speed 

Be made by action wary and well-advised, 
Were it not better even to sit still 
Than toil to unavailing weariness, 
And draw the ridicule of ill success? 

MAL. Success is found by finding out the way. 
Oft when the mightiest blow fails of the effect, 
Mere pressure fails not. Where 'twere vain to storm, 
Siege brings surrender. Not at the first wound, 
But after many deep and toilsome strokes, 
The oak's huge leafy pile falls to the ground. 
The war-ram brings not down the castle wall 
At the first impact, nor till many blows. 
Things you may once have thought impossible 
Time brings to pass ; and oft when reasoning 
Is foiled, importunacy wins the day. 
Urge, then, your suit ; enforce it with your tears ; 
And mingling prudent counsel, just reproach, 
Anger and fond caressing words, besiege, 
Thus and in every way assiduous, 
Your lord the king: let no occasion slip. 
If open dealing serve not, covert wiles 
May better thrive. For me, my purpose stands 
Firm and determined, never to desist 
Or rest until the work in hand be done. 



THE BAPTIST 141 



CHORUS 

At last deep malice, and the scourge 
Of rage remorseless, onward urge 
At speed this holy prophet's foes, 
His brief career in blood to close. 
Not for him in innocence 
Or saintliest life is there defence ; 
For what can saintliest life avail 
When hate-born calumnies assail, 
And wicked craft the plot has laid, 
And tyranny lends cruel aid ? 
In spoken truth and stainless life 
There lies no safeguard in this strife. 

Yet these the conscious spirit raise 
Superior to evil days ; 
And the prophet left alone, 
By no armed follower waited on 
So many shafts aimed at one heart, 
And wiles deep-planned with deadly art- 
Surveys the dangers round him laid 
With look and heart all undismayed. 
No rugged oak when from the north 
The icy storm-wind rushes forth, 
Or rock-cliff which the sounding sea 
Beats rhythmic, more unmoved than he. 

O sacred Truth, bright essence thou, 
To whom all loyal spirits bow ; 



142 SACRED DRAMAS 

Thou whom dark wiles nor open force 
Can turn one footbreadth from thy course ; 
Alone there is no fear in thee, 

Let Fortune send her darkest hour ; 
Thrall of no evils that may chance to be, 

Thou armest with unconquerable power ! 
Invincible, the very hand of Fate, 
Mistress of life and death, thou dost abate 
Of all its dreaded might ; 
And on the soul that hath thy light 

Not heavily 
Doth lie the hand of saddest destiny. 

CHORUS, JOHN 

CHO. I shrink from meeting him, and linger thus 
How can I pour into the prophet's ear 
This saddest of all tidings misery 
And woe but to rehearse ? Lo, where he stands 
Before the prison gates ! Peace to thy bosom, 
Child of the holy, holier still than they ! 
Our only hope to see the reign of peace, 
And innocence as in primeval days, 
Returning to the earth ! O be thou ware, 
And quickly to thy safety look, while time 
Yet suffers thee ! With deep and subtle craft 
The Rabbi Malchus seeks thy deadly harm ; 
The queen, a prey to indecision, burns 
With secret but infuriated rage ; 



THE BAPTIST 143 

The courtiers fan the smouldering inward fire ; 
The king dissembles ; others dread to speak 
The thing they know. The moment is at hand 
That brings thee to the utmost jeopardy. 

Jo. What is the danger? 

CHO. 'Tis the final close, 

The term of death, that presses hard on thee. 

Jo. Is all the impending evil summed in death? 

CHO. To mortal man no ampler ill can come. 

Jo. Though tyranny and treacherous guile should 

cease, 

And nevermore return to vex mankind, 
Mere lapse of time will bring the term of death 
Dreadful to wicked men, to innocence 
A thing to be desired. 

CHO. Ah me ! though thou 

Art careless of thy safety, let some thought 
Of us still weigh with thee. A little slack 
This high-strung spirit. Bend the royal will 
By sad entreaties. Friends there are of thine 
Will plead for thee, and haply not in vain. 

Jo. Am I not doing even as thou wouldst, 
Assiduously ? 

CHO. Heaven keep thee to this mind ! 

Jo. A needless prayer; it is and long has been 
My thought and purpose. It is known the king 
Hastes to englut his vengeance with my blood ; 
And I refuse not. Is there surer way 
To appease his wrath than w r hen, on either side, 



144 SACRED DRAMAS 

The things we would and would not are the same? 

CHO. Mere words ! 

Jo. What wouldst thou then that I should do? 

Two kings there are, whose high behests conflict 
The one in heaven, mild, merciful, and good ; 
On earth the other, ruthless, passion-swayed, 
A wicked tyrant. This holds o'er my head 
Menace of death ; that bids me banish far 
The fear of death, and promises reward 
To such as can outdare the tyrant's stroke. 
The one is able to destroy the body ; 
The other body and soul alike can rack 
With torment of inevitable fire. 
Placed thus between two high opposing wills, 
Which ought I to obey ? 

CHO. If thou let pass 

The occasion that now seeks thee, afterward 
Thou canst conciliate Herod nevermore ; 
But God is always reconcilable. 

Jo. Yet is not mocked : the longer 'tis restrained, 
The wrath of God and he is slow to wrath 
Flames into fiercer burning in the end. 

CHO. Deem'st thou so lightly of appointed things 
Which Heaven has willed that all of mortal breath 
Should hold in dread? O, sacred is the bond 
That binds in fellowship body and soul ; 
And lest occasion should be rashly seized 
To break this bond asunder, God hath joined 
Each to the other in a loving league, 



THE BAPTIST 145 

Body and soul reciprocally dear. 

Jo. Of death I lightly deem not ; but I shun 
By momentary death a death to which 
The years shall bring no end. The light of life, 
It is God's gift ; and I at the recall 
Unmurmuring restore it back again. 

CHO, And dost thou willingly relinquish too 
Thine orphaned children, nurtured in thy word? 

Jo. Never can they be orphans who believe 
God is their Father. 

CHO. And thy kindred, they 

Do move thee nothing ? nor the tears of friends ? 
Kindred and friends whom thou art leaving thus 
Defenceless to a tyrant's cruelty. 

Jo. I leave them not ; rather am left of them, 
And go the way ordained from earliest time 
To meet my death. 'Tis the fixed ordinance 
All are born under, whosoe'er behold 
The pleasant sunlight. To one goal we haste, 
Still journeying toward the grave ; and the swift days, 
Ever as they pass, all speed us thitherward. 
To evil men death is a punishment 
'Tis so appointed ; but to all good men 
The harbouring inlet where life's voyage ends ; 
Term of a lengthened life,, and yet the gate 
Of entrance to a life that has no term ; 
The gate that gladly ushers in our steps 
To the bright realm of pure, eternal light 
Not dead not dead, but rather born anew 

K 



146 SACRED DRAMAS 

To higher life and larger destiny. 

It is the exit by which mortals leave 

Their prison-house, and into life pass forth, 

Life everlasting. All our fathers trod 

This way before us, an unnumbered host ; 

We all shall follow them, our path the same : 

His speed who would retard? In the fleet race, 

What runner, rushing from the barrier, 

Is not at once rapt onward to the goal 

In thought and strenuous purpose? Who that, in 

The night's tempestuous darkness, sore is tossed 

Upon the billowy main, would not be glad 

To come within the haven's sheltering verge, 

Where the loud waves are still ? Or who, compelled 

To roam an exile o'er the cheerless wastes 

Of an un-native soil, is grieved to hear 

A voice announcing early his recall 

Home to his fatherland ? So, glad at heart, 

My course concluded, at the very goal 

I deem myself arrived, and from the surge 

Of a now well-nigh ended life I gaze 

Shoreward, and see the land. From alien fields, 

Soil of my banishment, I turn me home, 

Homeward I turn me, where I shall behold 

The first and best-loved Father him who girt 

The land about with waters, and outstretched 

Around the earth the overarching sky ; 

Who rules the unerring motions of the orbs 

That roll in the blue firmament serene ; 



THE BAPTIST 147 

Sole maker, ruler, and upholder of 

All things that are, and unto whom all things, 

Living and dead, alike do live. As flames 

Spontaneous whirl on high their eddies light, 

As waters downward glide in ceaseless flow, 

And all things to their native element 

Are ever tending ; so the spirit of man, 

From heaven descended, here below doth pant 

For God, the Father of all things, dweller in 

Eternal light; whom to behold is life; 

Whom not to see is death beyond all death. 

What should obscure my aim or slack my speed? 
Though rugged mountains swept by ice-cold winds, 
Or skies with never-lulling storms convulsed, 
Or seas perturbed with tempests, barred my way, 
Or tracts from burning heat impassable, 
Should I not still speed on speed thitherward 
Where I shall see so many noble dead, 
Kings, leaders, prophets, sages, and just men ? 
Whom to behold should I not urge my way, 
A thousand deaths obstructing? Thus my soul, 
Free from this earthly prison-house, the doors 
Burst open for me, longs to wing its flight 
Whither all on earth or late or soon shall go. 
For what is life prolonged but lingering toil 
And suffering in a prison hard and drear? 

O Death, sole lightener of our heavy load, 
Refuge of sorrow, rest from trouble, thou 
By few of mortal men yet recognized, 



148 SACRED DRAMAS 

The good thou art; terror of evil men, 
Desire of just : receive me ; O receive 
Into thy bosom this frail body, wrecked, 
Storm-broken ; and conduct me to the home 
Of everlasting rest, far, far away 
From violence and craft and calumny. 

CHO, O happy thou, in this thy fortitude ! 
And wretched we whom coward apprehension 
Robs of this triumph ! What there needs must be, 
Thyself well knowest ; and we urge no more ; 
This only more Farewell ! a long farewell ! 
For ever, and for ever, fare thee well! 



CHORUS 

There is a discord between mind and mind, 

A strife that leads into opposing ways : 
Death dreads he not, but meets with heart resigned, 

Whose life no worthiness of death betrays ; 
While the death-worthy, if he chance to hear 

The faintest rustle of death's pinions nigh, 
Straightway his cheek is blanched with craven fear, 

And his limbs tremble, he so dreads to die. 
As evil men from death ignobly flee 

Through fire and flood and trackless rock-stn-wn 

waste ; 
So just men, longing with the dead to be, 

Deathward through every danger nobly haste : 



THE BAPTIST 149 

For death has blessings known not to the vile, 

And is companioned with a life more blest. 
Wholly we die not ; the funereal pile 

In its fire-surges burns us not ; there rest 
Unscathed the soul's immortal powers ; and we, 

Scaling the ethereal steeps, our native zone, 
Find sure abodes, for ever ours to be, 

Among the shining hosts in heaven that wone. 

But guilty souls that perish in their crime 

In burning sulphurous lake shall have their lot, 
By inward torments vexed to endless time, 

Where their worm dieth, their fire quencheth, not. 
Torn by the envenomed fangs of fierce remorse, 

And agonies of unfulfilled desires, 
O wretched ye, who end your earthly course 

Whelmed in the unextinguishable fires ! 
And hence the sinner's fear, the hope that cheers 

The righteous spirit, and the noble waste 
Of this frail life, while that which not appears, 

The life imperishable, is embraced 
In ardent aim and expectation high, 
And beckons the life-loser to the sky. 

O fleeting life, by fond illusions swayed ! 

Enchantress, strong to charm and to beguile ! 
By thy soft blandishments we are betrayed, 

And 'scape not from our greatest ills the while : 



150 SACRED DRAMAS 

Escape we find not, though 'tis near, and wide 

The door stands open ; but thou shutst it fast, 
And 'mid thy strong enchantments we abide 

Thy willing prisoners well if at the last, 
Through thy obstructions manifold, we come 

To the loved haven of perpetual peace ; 
Where War's wild terror and the mustering drum 

And the loud clarion's blare for ever cease ; 
Where no rapacious pirate frights the main, 

No truculent robber lurks in forest lone, 
Nor mightier plunderer, a crown to gain, 

Madly fair lands lays waste and ruin-strewn. 
None there oppress the poor with miseries 

Untold, to feed their own magnificence, 
That they, sole blest, may loll in pampered ease 

Darlings of luxury and indolence ; 
None, wretched if they knew, to purchase power 

And sounding titles that are but as breath, 
Barter men's lives in furious battle-hour, 

And with their blood drench the red field of death. 
No ; war is hushed, and strife has ceased to be, 
And all is peace and sweetest harmony ; 
And smiling joy and deep tranquillity 

And guileless worth are there in every breast ; 
And nevermore to darkness speeds the day, 

Nor evermore is felt death's cold arrest ; 
No moan of pain is there, nor wailing cries, 
And tears are wiped for ever from all eyes. 



THE BAPTIST 151 

O earthly house, our sweet abiding-place, 

Our prison, yet we hold thee all too dear, 
Thy bonds enchanted O at last unlace, 

And let the soul regain her native sphere, 
The heaven-born soul which to thy bosom comes 

Forgetful of its birth, and glad to mate 
With thee degraded such a spell benumbs 

All memory of its primeval state. 
Full of deceits, integument of clay, 

Vanish, resolved into the dust thou wast ! 
That, back to heaven restored, in light's pure ray 

The soul may orb its powers, all error past ; 
Die, and alike give to thyself release 

From sufferings and toils that bring thee harm, 
And to the soul give joyful surcease 

Of troubles full of sorrow and alarm. 

THE QUEEN 

The wily Rabbi, then, has tricked my hope ; 
The king with equal falseness has betrayed 
Alike himself and me ; and while he dreads 
The petty rumours of the babbling crowd 
Buzzed in each other's ears, my anxious soul 
And I am on the rack broods o'er the task 
My daughter has in hand. For at a banquet 
Thronged with the great she danced, to the delight 
Of king and guest, of all the king's high guests, 
And in reguerdon the king promised her 



152 SACRED DRAMAS 

What gift she would. It is the Baptist's head 
Delivered in a charger she will ask: 
And 'twill be given her; I am well assured 
It will, unless I much misknow the stuff 
The king is made of. Nothing loth, I wot, 
Himself unblamed, he will divert on me 
The popular abhorrence of the deed. 
And so the deed be thorough, I will bear 
Gladly the hate of it, and counterpoise 
The hate with sweetness of achieved revenge, 
The blot with the rich gain. Is it not shame 
A woman should be cruel? Shame it is, 
Were it not more, and doubly more, a shame 
To leave the wrongs of princes unavenged. 

But see, the king and damsel are come forth, 
And this way wending. My long cherished hope 
Is near my grasp, and all the more I burn 
With apprehension : Heaven prosper all. 

HEROD, DAMSEL, THE QUEEN 

HER. Hast thou well weighed the guerdon thou 
shalt ask ? 

DAM. Yes ; if the promises of kings are sure 
And kingly. 

HER. Have no fear ; the word I pledged 

In presence of the assembled banqueters 
Shall stand inviolate. Ask of me the half 



THE BAPTIST 153 

Of all my kingdom, or if aught there be 
Dearer in thy esteem than wide domains, 
Ask and 'tis thine ; no power can thwart my will. 

DAM. How that may be will presently be seen. 

HER. It is a thing determined, ask even now. 

DAM. Thy kingdom nought I need of, less or more : 
Thou being king, I deem the realm my own, 
As if I ruled it. My request is one 
Easy to grant and altogether just. 

HER. If the bestowal lingers, the delay 
Is thine, and is no other's. 

DAM. Give me here 

The Baptist's severed head, brought in this charger. 

HER. What hast thou said ! Rash are the words 

that fell, 
O maiden, from thy lips. 

DAM. Rash are they not, 

But well advised. 

HER. O, much it misbeseems 

A tender girl ! his head ? 

DAM. It well beseems 

To bring destruction on an enemy. 

HER. And is the Baptist, then, an enemy 
Worthy a king's resentment or his wrath? 

DAM. His deep offence claims the resentment due. 

HER. 'Twill be a deed abhorred throughout the 

world : 
The popular loathing of it who shall lay? 

DAM. Obedience is the people's part; the part 

K 2 



154 SACRED DRAMAS 

Of kings is to command. 

HER. Not what is wrong ; 

Right only. 

DAM. What perchance were wrong before 
The king's command makes right. 

HER. The force of law 

Sets limits to the king's prerogative. 

DAM. The prince's pleasure evermore is right : 
And 'tis not laws set limits to the king ; 
The king, supreme, can overbear the laws. 

HER. So should I be a tyrant, not a king, 
And execrated by the general voice. 

DAM. A voice that dreads the king's authority. 

HER. Dreads, but still mutters. 

DAM. Quiet it with the sword. 

HER. Terror is no defence to royal power. 

DAM. The royal power is ripe for overthrow 
That weakly yields impunity to crime. 

HER. Securely stands the throne where loyalty 
And love of all its subjects guard it round. 

DAM. That kings be loved there is no utter need ; 
But utter need there is that they be feared. 

HER. A load of hatred burdens cruel kings. 

DAM. A mild and gentle king is held in scorn. 

Qu. The drift, methinks, of all this colloquy 
Is this, that promises are idle breath. 
Thou seem'st to me not yet to comprehend 
The functions of a ruler. If thou deem 
That honour and shame cling to the acts of kings 



THE BAPTIST 155 

As shame and honour are attributed 

To their own actions by the vulgar herd, 

Thou art deceived. Friends, neighbours, father, son, 

Sisters and brothers, countryman and foe, 

Are words that bind the lowly and the poor ; 

To a king they are but breath and vanity. 

The diadem once bound upon his brows, 

Let him renounce all duty of all kinds, 

As duty is regarded. Let him judge 

Nought shameful that is helpful ; and no deed 

Unseemly, done to buttress up his throne. 

The welfare of the realm comes of the king ; 

And to be true and loyal to the king 

Is to contribute to the good of all. 

What? is this paltry fellow's blood so rich 

That, worn and harassed, thou hast quiet rest 

Nor day nor night? Go, rid us of this dread: 

Rouse thee, and guard thy sceptre from affront ; 

Arrest the rising of an armed revolt 

That would bring devastation to our towns, 

Pillage and ruin to our cultured fields, 

And war's intestine miseries to all. 

The occasion calls thee ; be the king thou art : 

Let awe of thee sink deep, and by a new 

And great example burn into men's minds 

How sacred is the majesty of kings. 

His crime cries out; let him go down to death 
Crime-burdened; though he had committed none, 
Still let him perish at thy wife's desire ; 



156 SACRED DRAMAS 

Yield to thy wife her hated enemy; 
Or if thy wife be nothing, yet fulfil 
Thy promise to my daughter, as becomes 
A father and a king. 

HER. It shall be kept 

With perfect faith; but were she swayed by me 
She yet would frame her choice to wise* thoughts. 

Qu. If swayed by me, her purpose will not change. 

HER. Is it even so ? Why must I needs have 

sworn 

So rashly ? What infatuation came 
To bind my honour to a girl's caprice, 
Arid all my prospering, kingdom, treasures, all, 
Even life and death, put in a woman's power? 

Qu. Let steadfast truth confirm the pledge of kings. 

HER. Refuse I may not ; but what yet I may, 
Once more I warn and beg that your revenge 
Urge you not on to what would ill become 
Your birth and sex and royal eminence. 

Qu. Enough; leave in our charge what yet remains. 

HER. Be not too harsh in ought you shall decide 
Against the prophet, or the blame is yours, 
And yours shall be the peril. 

Qu. Be it so. 

Now is insulted majesty avenged, 
And in such wise that never in future days 
Shall it lie open to contempt or scorn. 
Now shall the stubborn multitude be taught 
To speak of kings with due restraint, or learn 



THE BAPTIST 157 

The lesson to their cost. And they shall find 
That, be the king's high ordinance right or wrong, 
The people must take all submissively, 
The right and wrong, and make no murmuring. 



CHORUS 

O realm of David, and ye towers that keep 

Jerusalem within your strong defence ; 
And thou, O temple on Moriah's steep, 

The crown of Solomon's magnificence ! 
Whence comes this frenzied rage against thy seers? 

And whence this cruel thirst of righteous blood? 
Pattern of worth to the remotest years 

Thou shouldst have been, and, lo, thou long hast 

stood 
Unmatched in wickedness ; and evil lore 

Alone thou teachest, guile and lawless force, 
Theft, robbery, and murder ; and no more 

The olden piety holds on its course. 
The priesthood with foul blots is darkly stained ; 

The people have forsaken the great Lord, 
Father of all things, and bend, unrestrained 

By the deep folly, down to things abhorred ; 
Idols of sculptured stone and graven wood, 

To these the victims bleed, the altars burn ; 
The maker knees his own similitude 

That to his cry no answer can return : 



158 SACRED DRAMAS 

Life from a stock he asks, and words doth crave 
Of dumbness, so his mind is darkened o'er ; 

The rich begs of the poor, lord begs of slave, 
And the old hallowed rites are loved no more. 

City of blood ! the blood of prophets slain 

Speeds on thy doom at the great Judge's throne; 
Loudly the miseries of the poor complain, 

And widows fill the air with wail and moan. 
Just vengeance waits thee, certain to betide 

Unless all auguries are falsely scanned ; 
For He who curbs the insolence of pride, 

Lord of the sky and of the sea and land, 
Looks from on high and never doth forget 

The tears and cries of men whom men oppress ; 
And his avenging hand will render yet 

Swift judgment on thy nameless wickedness. 

The foeman comes, and his victorious bands 

Shall hurl to earth the walls and towers wherein 
Thy trust is placed defiant ; and thy lands, 

Homestead and field, rude warriors shall win : 
Thy vineyards the rich vintage shall outpour 

Of all their clusters to a foreign lord ; 
And where the fairest pile earth ever bore, 

The temple where the Highest doth record 
His name and dwelling-place, sublimely rears 

Its turrets mingling with the azure eaves, 
The alien husbandman in coming years 

Shall guide the plough and bind his harvest sheaves. 



THE BAPTIST 159 

Therefore, while yet the clemency supreme 

Gives space for thy repenting, cast away 
The errors of thy life that's past ; nor deem 

The idols of the heathen help or stay. 
Forsake them utterly, those idols vain, 

And the fierce thirst of kindred blood forsake ; 
And the accursed hungering restrain, 

The hunger which the love of gold doth wake. 

Ah, still impenitent thou wilt remain, 

And still pursue thy old and evil ways ; 
Nor wilt thou banish from the hallowed fane 

The idol-gods whom blinded Gentiles praise. 
Still shall thy hands with kindred blood be red, 

Still the gold-hunger shall thy heart consume ; 
And the dark path thy wayward foot doth tread 

Shall lead thee to thy just and speedy doom. 
The deadly pestilence shall feed on thee ; 

War, hunger, leanness, penury shall crush 
Thy shattered strength, until, most righteously, 

On life's last dreadful hour thy guilt shall rush. 



MESSENGER, CHORUS 

MES. Where may the comrades of the prophet be, 
If haply thou canst tell ? Tidings I bring 
Of woe and sorrow. 

CHO. Stay thee here a while, 



160 SACRED DRAMAS 

If that thy haste be not the more ; I fain 
Would know thy burden : briefly utter it. 

MES. Fain to know that which, known, will grieve 
thee sore. 

CHO. Howbeit, grudge not one short moment's stay. 

MES. Knowest thou the guerdon that the damsel 
craved ? 

CHO. The prophet's severed head brought in a 
charger. 

MES. The prophet's head so brought she bore away. 

CHO. O deed of horror! all the godlike force 
And grace of that majestic countenance 
Are withered in a lamentable death ; 
And lips but lately breathing with the breath 
Of heaven's high inspiration now are closed 
In everlasting silence. 'Twas a deed 
To move the wrath and pity of mankind. 

MES. Why weep ? Laments are idle ; let them 
cease. 

CHO. Around me when I see and hear of things 
Deeply to be deplored, must I not weep? 

MES. O, if the dead must be be wept and moaned, 
Let those bemoan the dead whose hopes are dead, 
And buried with the buried, in one grave ; 
And who believe not that, brief term o'erpast 
Of sleep sepulchral, the interred dead 
To life shall be restored, life without end. 
Let misery's own children weep the dead, 
And only those who, dead, are miserable. 



THE BAPTIST 161 

Over no man on earth has Fortune power 

To render him a child of misery ; 

And though like term of life wait all who live, 

Righteous and wicked, yet shall no man die 

An evil death whose life has been lived well. 

O, if the mode of exit might be held 

A test of misery, then shouldst thou deem 

Many of the saintly fathers of old time 

Who died by violence and in ignominy, 

By cross, or headsman's blade, or flood, or fire, 

Proved but too clearly miserable men. 

No ; the lifeguard of Truth, who fights and falls 

For his religion and ancestral laws, 

A high example leaves for noble minds 

To honour, and to think of in their prayers, 

When most they strive to brace their manliest powers 

A life to follow, and a death to die. 

CHO. Surely 'tis even so as thou hast said ; 
But we, less wise whom errors in repute 
And sympathy with other minds mislead 
Shunning our fates, rush on our fate the while. 
The wave submerges whom the fire hath spared ; 
Pestilence kills where shipwreck failed to drown ; 
The warrior, home unscathed from all his fields, 
Is slain by pining sickness. To defer, 
Not to avert, our fate the heavens permit ; 
And day by day, for death deferred, we yield 
The usury of ailments, perils, griefs, 
And troubles manifold as life drags on. 



162 SACRED DRAMAS 

A life prolonged is but a lengthening chain 

Of evils, knit together link by link. 

Unceasing till we reach life's utmost bourne. 

Yet bound though thus we be, and chained to ills, 

We feel not, miserable that we are, our bonds, 

And dread far more our exit from this life 

Than life's long servitude of suffering. 



THE END 



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/PR 2218 .A4 1906 SMC 
Buchanan, George, 
The sacred dramas of George 
Buchanan 47082320